Wallabies coach Cheika faces down critics
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Embattled Wallabies coach Michael Cheika reacted angrily to questions about his future after back-to-back Bledisloe Cup defeats by the All Blacks.
New Zealand triumphed 40-12 at Eden Park on Saturday, after winning the first game 38-13, to clinch the three-match series and extend its hold on the Bledisloe Cup to 16 years.
Calls for Cheika to be replaced, one year before the World Cup, have grown louder after the Wallabies suffered heavy losses to the world champion All Blacks and a series loss in June to second-ranked Ireland.
The coach was asked at a post-match news conference whether he was giving any thought to his future.
"If you were naive enough to think I'm worried about myself here, then you don't know me at all," Cheika said. "You've known me for a while now and the last person I'm thinking about is me.
"I want Australia to play good rugby and be the best it can. If you think there's a debate going on in your mind, then you need to take some pills to sort it out because there's no debate going on in my mind."
Cheika said he was focused on improving the Wallabies and was not going to be side-tracked by speculation over his role.
"Some people might do rugby coaching as a job, I'm doing it as a passion," he added. "We want Australia to win more than anything and I'll do my very best for every day I'm honored enough to have the position.
"I want to get the team operating in a place when turnovers occur that we are there and ready to pounce."
Cheika is due to meet with Rugby Australia officials in Sydney next week but his future is not on the table. The meeting reportedly is to determine whether he needs any additional support or resources in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Fairfax Media in Australia reported Friday that Cheika retained the support of the Rugby Australia board and would likely only lose that if the team's Rugby Championship campaign turned calamitous.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper tried to remain positive after Saturday's loss, Australia's 30th in its last 34 tests against New Zealand.
"You look at the match-ups tonight and I'm keeping all our players, I'm not swapping anyone," he said.