Tuesday 17 September 2019

Michael Cheika sounded out to replace Stuart Lancaster as England head coach - reports

Michael Cheika
Michael Cheika

Gavin Mairs

Michael Cheika has been sounded out by the Rugby Football Union to replace Stuart Lancaster as the next England head coach, according to reports in Australia.

Cheika, who was named World Rugby’s coach of the year last week, has reportedly been contacted by RFU president Jason Leonard, the former England World Cup-winnning prop, about whether the 48 year-old would be interested in the Twickenham job.

If the report is accurate, it suggests that Lancaster may have already indicated to the RFU that he does not intend to continue as head coach having been interviewed by the World Cup review panel last week.

Cheika, who is contracted with the Australian Rugby Union until the end of 2017, has seen his stock soar after guiding the Wallabies to the World Cup final just 11 months after taking over a squad that was in a state of disarray and racked by off-field controversies.

Cheika also masterminded the 33-13 pool defeat of England that knocked the tournament hosts out of the tournament and according to a report in the Australian newspaper, he has now been lined up as a potential successor to Lancaster.

The RFU's five-man review panel, which is being chaired by chief executive Ian Ritchie, is due to make his recommendations to the governing body’s board on November 17.

Cheika, the former Leinster and Stade Francais coach, is coincidentally due to be in London that week to coach the Barbarians against Argentina at Twickenham on November 22.

If Lancaster resigns or is sacked it would leave the governing body little time to appoint a replacement before the start of the Six Nations, given that the England elite player squad must be named at the start of January.

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Cheika was asked about his future on his return to Australia following the 34-17 World Cup final defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham on Oct 31.

“I’m in to 2017 and for me it’s irrelevant whether I’m on to 2019 or 2017 or 2016, I want to do the best so the team is in the right position to keep getting better in the future,” Cheika said.

Bill Pulver, the ARU chief executive, last week lauded Cheika’s impact since taking over as head coach last November, juggling his duties as head coach of the New South Wales Waratahs at the same time.

“Michael Cheika has done a remarkable job,” Pulver said. “Voted World Rugby Coach of the Year — and that’s in his first year. Imagine how good this guy can get in a couple of years. It’s a wonderful thought.”

The RFU was forced to deny it had approached Nick Mallet during the week before England’s final World Cup game against Uruguay following reports from South Africa that the former Springbok head coach had turned down an offer to replace Lancaster.

Mallet, who had been Lancaster’s close rival for the job three years ago, had been speaking at a breakfast for Super Rugby side the Blue Bulls and said he would not be interested in the job, having narrowly missed out in 2012.

Mallett later clarified that there had been no approach by the RFU about the job. It appears he had merely been asked whether he would be interested in it by some rugby agents.


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