Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has responded to scathing criticism of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign from selector Michael O’Connor.
O’Connor was brought in as a Wallabies selector at the start of 2019 to be part of a three-man panel, along with Scott Johnson and Cheika, during the national season last year.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, O’Connor was brutal in his assessment of Cheika and the Wallabies’ approach to their ultimately failed World Cup campaign, saying it was ‘only ever going to end in tears’.
Cheika has since hit back, saying he is disappointed by the fact that O’Connor was airing his grievances so publicly months after the tournament wrapped up.
‘Being a selector for Australia is a prestigious position,’ he told RUGBY.com.au.
‘I think it shows the disregard for it when that person’s talking like that about stuff that’s close to the team and is not really qualified to make those comments.’
Cheika also dismissed O’Connor’s opinion that the former’s ‘secret’ game-plan strategy was a total scam.
‘I don’t know what he bases that on. The discussions that you have with selectors are about selection,’ Cheika said.
‘I sat down and spoke to both selectors exactly about how we were playing the game so they could have an understanding about selecting teams and nothing was ever brought up at that discussion.
‘He certainly didn’t not understand the tactics or the plan when we beat the All Blacks by a record score in August, it was never mentioned then.’
Cheika said he felt that O’Connor’s role as a selector meant he only saw part of the picture when it came to the team.
‘His attendance at training, different days and different times, could’ve totalled maybe four or three weeks overall,’ he said.
‘So much happens in there, discussions and meetings happen at different times.
‘He’s not to be privy to any of those, that’s just maintaining the boundaries of what you’re supposed to do in that role.
‘Since the whole thing [the World Cup] finished, I spoke at the end of the tournament and I did one interview in the Times, where I spoke about my accountability. I’ve not slagged anyone, not spoken poorly of any other person inside the organisation and I don’t want to,’ he explained.
‘At a certain point sometimes where the line is crossed on what the truth is you have to stand up and say, “This is not right and that person shouldn’t be talking like that.”
‘This concept that I could dominate the selection process is totally ridiculous, it was a vote of three every time.’
Photo: Getty Images