Cheika on tight leash after surviving axe

Michael Cheika will remain as Wallabies coach through to next year's World Cup but his powers will likely be reduced with Rugby Australia set to appoint Scott Johnson above him as director of rugby.

Rugby Australia is yet to confirm the decision to appoint Johnson in the new role while retaining the under-fire Cheika as coach but The Daily Telegraph understands an announcement will be made as early as next week.

Johnson, who worked as the Wallabies attack coach under John Connolly during the 2007 World Cup, is among several men who have been linked as possible replacements for Cheika.


Rugby Australia secretly met with Johnson, who is currently working as Scotland's director of rugby and has been credited for turning their on-field fortunes around, during the Wallabies recent Spring Tour of Europe, and have been working out a deal for his return home.

The 56-year-old former Waratah has been coaching overseas for the last decade but is widely understood to want to return home.

The arrangement is seen as the best compromise to Rugby Australia's dilemma about whether to fire Cheika and pay him out or stick with him despite mounting criticism of the team's rapid slide down the world rankings.


Scott Johnson (L) is set to oversee Cheika in a director of rugby of role.
Scott Johnson (L) is set to oversee Cheika in a director of rugby of role.


Cheika fronted the Rugby Australia board on Monday and chairman Cameron Clyne said a decision on his future would be made before Christmas but offered no insight into what was going on behind the scenes during a press conference that lasted less than a minute.

Clyne was heavily criticised for refusing to answer questions from journalists, though he did offer some cryptic clues.

"We obviously received a presentation from Michael Cheika and we're going through a process, so I'm not really in a position to elaborate," he said.


Cheika’s powers will be heavily reduced. Picture: Getty
Cheika’s powers will be heavily reduced. Picture: Getty


Significantly, Clyne did not provide an assurance that things would remain unchanged after the board had previously declared Cheika's job was safe even though the code's leaders were coming under intense pressure to try something different after the Wallabies lost nine of their 13 Tests in 2018 and fell from second to sixth in the world.

Cheika has not made any public comments since he returned home and did not attend Tuesday's annual players association awards ceremony in Sydney though his name was on the tip of everyone's tongue.

RUPA Medal winner David Pocock said senior Wallabies players had been kept in the dark about what was happening but said it wasn't up to them to decide the coach anyway.

"Like everyone else, we'll wait and see what happens this week and move on," he said.

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