The Australian Rugby Union today announced NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has been appointed Qantas Wallabies head coach on a three year contract, effective immediately.
Cheika’s appointment follows Ewen McKenzie’s resignation after Australia’s 29-28 loss to New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Cheika is currently contracted to the NSW Waratahs until the end of 2015, and will retain that position for 2015 only while coaching the Qantas Wallabies.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said Michael Cheika was the outstanding candidate for the role.
“Central to our decision was selecting a world-class coach who can lead us to victory in next year’s Rugby World Cup and a person who represents Rugby’s core values.”
“Michael fulfils these requirements. He is also extremely passionate and has a strong track record of motivating teams to win through plenty of hard work.
“I’m confident he will embrace this new challenge and on behalf of the Australian Rugby community, I would like to congratulate him on his appointment,” Mr Pulver said.
Cheika said he was humbled by his appointment.
“I never imagined I would be in the position of coaching our national team and feel extremely honoured to have this opportunity.”
“My mission will be to do the best possible job I can and to motivate the people around me to ensure they are able to represent Australia to the best of their ability.
“I feel the key to any future success will be to ensure we have a strong identity and not letting anything get in the way of our preparation to succeed on the world stage.”
Cheika comes to the role with extensive experience in Rugby as a player and coach domestically and internationally and led the NSW Waratahs to their first-ever Super Rugby title earlier this year.
The appointment comes as the Qantas Wallabies prepare to leave for their Spring Tour on Friday, with games against the Barbarians, Wales, France, Ireland and England.
The 33-man squad for the tour includes three changes to the group which recently assembled in Brisbane to prepare for the All Blacks, including the return of injured duo Matt Toomua and Ben McCalman.
McCalman was initially expected to miss the remainder of 2014 due to a shoulder injury but has improved significantly in recent weeks, to a point where he has been cleared by ARU medical staff to return to play.
Teammate and fellow backrower Scott Fardy will however miss the remainder of the Test season, and underwent surgery for an ongoing knee issue in Canberra yesterday.
The third change sees the inclusion of uncapped Rebels backrower Sean McMahon, who joins the group as one of five potential debutants, alongside prop Tetera Faulkner, centre Kyle Godwin and wingers Henry Speight and Tom English.
In addition to Michael Cheika’s appointment for the Spring Tour, Bill Pulver also announced there will be changes to the Wallabies’ off-field structure to help support the team’s high performance objectives.
“A recent review found we need to introduce a senior position into the Wallabies’ off-field structure to provide additional leadership and general management duties.”
“For the upcoming Spring Tour, our General Manager of Pathways & Performance, Ben Whitaker, will undertake this role, with a permanent appointment and confirmation of what this role will encompass to be made after the Spring Tour.
Ben Whitaker has worked in professional Rugby for the past ten years in a range of roles covering high performance, overseeing national teams and programs; sports science; and sports medicine. Most recently, he has been a driving force behind the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship.
Changes to the Wallabies’ coaching structure for the upcoming Spring Tour have also been announced, with NSW Waratahs defence coach Nathan Grey set to join the team. Grey will be part of a three-man coaching line-up for the Spring Tour, alongside Cheika and existing Forwards Coach Andrew Blades.
Mr Pulver said this means contracts for coaches Nick Scrivener and Jim McKay will end.
“I’d like to thank Nick and Jim for their significant contribution to Australian Rugby.”
“Nick has been a long-serving contributor at the national level under two coaches. Most recently, he has shaped the Wallabies’ defence and had significant input and oversight of the team’s overall training program.
“Jim has been at the forefront of the new attacking style the Wallabies have played in the past year, and we’ve all enjoyed seeing the free-flowing style of Rugby Jim has promoted.
“I would also like to thank Nick and Jim – as well as Andrew Blades – for their incredible leadership, particularly in recent weeks. They were both exceptional in preparing the team to play under difficult circumstances, and this decision should not take away from the high quality of work they produced over a long period.
“Their contribution was highlighted by the Wallabies’ performance against the All Blacks last Saturday night.”
Michael Cheika Background:
- 47-year-old Michael Cheika played 286 senior games for Sydney Premier Rugby club Randwick; represented Australia in the Under 21s; and played Rugby in France and Italy.
- His coaching career includes leading the NSW Waratahs to the club’s first-ever Super Rugby title earlier this year; and leading Irish provincial side Leinster for five years and winning the club’s first ever Heineken Cup in 2009. He has also coached in Italy (Petrarca Rugby in Padova), France (Stade Français in Paris) and at his home club Randwick.
- Michael Cheika’s experience outside Rugby includes running a fashion distribution company and working for one of Australia’s leading fashion designers, Collette Dinnigan.
- Michael Cheika grew up in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and is the son of Lebanese migrants.
- He is married with four young children and speaks French, Italian and Arabic
The Qantas Wallabies squad for the 2014 Spring Tour is:
|Adam Ashley-Cooper||NSW Waratahs||30||100|
|Ben Alexander||ACT Brumbies||29||69|
|Sam Carter||ACT Brumbies||25||8|
|Quade Cooper||Queensland Reds||26||50|
|Tom English||Melbourne Rebels||23||Uncapped|
|Saia Fainga’a||Queensland Reds||27||32|
|Tetera Faulkner||Western Force||26||Uncapped|
|Israel Folau||NSW Waratahs||25||25|
|Bernard Foley||NSW Waratahs||25||14|
|Will Genia||Queensland Reds||26||55|
|Kyle Godwin||Western Force||22||Uncapped|
|James Hanson||Queensland Reds||26||5|
|Scott Higginbotham||Melbourne Rebels||28||31|
|Matt Hodgson||Western Force||33||9|
|Michael Hooper (c)||NSW Waratahs||22||38|
|Rob Horne||NSW Waratahs||25||22|
|James Horwill||Queensland Reds||29||56|
|Luke Jones||Melbourne Rebels||23||1|
|Sekope Kepu||NSW Waratahs||28||48|
|Tevita Kuridrani||ACT Brumbies||23||17|
|Christian Leali’ifano||ACT Brumbies||27||14|
|Josh Mann-Rea||ACT Brumbies||33||2|
|Ben McCalman||Western Force||26||34|
|Sean McMahon||Melbourne Rebels||20||Uncapped|
|Nick Phipps||NSW Waratahs||25||24|
|Benn Robinson||NSW Waratahs||30||69|
|Rob Simmons||Queensland Reds||25||46|
|Will Skelton||NSW Waratahs||22||4|
|James Slipper||Queensland Reds||25||59|
|Henry Speight||ACT Brumbies||26||Uncapped|
|Joe Tomane||ACT Brumbies||23||12|
|Matt Toomua||ACT Brumbies||24||19|
|Nic White||ACT Brumbies||23||18|