Rewind 12 months and the Wallabies were in total disarray just a year out from the World Cup as new coach Michael Cheika took over the reigns.
The transformation of a side that looked very much on the way down is monumental given the various issues that have had to be overcome since then. Those dark times are already a distant memory for Wallabies fans thanks in large part to one man – Michael Cheika.
Somehow Cheika has managed to balance continuing to coach Super Rugby franchise the Waratahs alongside moulding a Wallabies team that now look like genuine contenders for the World Cup in 2015.
Last weekends impressive victory over hosts England at Twickenham is the culmination of Cheika’s incredible work and preparation for a Wallabies squad that looked like it could be set to tear itself apart from the inside.
The team were struggling on the pitch whilst off it there were increasing reports of internal disruptions with key players holding too much power and effectively forcing senior backroom staff out of their positions.
Rather than simply doing away with the disruptive influences, Cheika has instead harnessed their undoubted individual talents whilst still instilling a team culture that has ensured every single member of the current Wallabies squad is playing for the shirt rather than themselves.
Cheika also went to bat with the ARU to ensure the availability of experienced players like Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Dean Mumm for the World Cup. Have no doubt, this was not an easy task, but Cheika stuck to his guns and is now enjoying the rewards of his single mindedness.
His achievement of turning the Wallabies into Rugby Championship victors earlier this year is already being overshadowed by his sides exploits at the Rugby World Cup as they have transformed themselves from clear underdogs, to serious contenders.
Quite possibly Cheika’s biggest achievement has been in turning the Wallabies pack into a genuine force, thanks in no small part to Marco Ledesma. To see an Australian pack comprehensively out scrummaging England last weekend was a true mark of just how far this side have come.
Have no doubts, there is still a huge challenge ahead for this Wallabies side, but given the miracles Cheika has already performed, it is easy to see them going all the way. For this, Cheika has to be considered right up there in the coaching pantheon.