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Cheika admits regrets, reflects on time as Wallabies coach

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SYDNEY (AP) — Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has blamed a lack of preparation at Super Rugby level and the loss of the Western Force for Australia’s inconsistent form in test matches under his leadership.

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Sports, Cheika admitted he had regrets when he left the Wallabies coaching role after last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

“Am I satisfied in the end, mate? No, because I wanted to win a Bledisloe and the World Cup,” Cheika said. “I wasn’t able to do that and that hurts me, personally, because I really value the supporter on the street and I know that’s what they want. I see them.”

Cheika finished with a 50 percent success rate — 34 wins, 32 losses and 2 draws from 68 tests over five years. While he was named World Rugby Coach of the Year in 2015 he wasn’t able to break New Zealand’s grip on the Bledisloe Cup or win the World Cup; he led Australia to the final in 2015.

He said he was “honored, grateful” to have coached the Australia national team. But he portrayed himself as an outsider, disliked and often opposed by rugby’s establishment.

“For a kid like me, to think that he’d have the opportunity to coach the Wallabies, I would have never imagined,” Cheika said. “I’ve always been a sort of an outsider in rugby, outside of the establishment.

“So to get that opportunity — and to consider the circumstances that we’ve had going on in Australian rugby the last five years — we’ve always represented with maximum courage.

“Sometimes we weren’t at our best, sometimes we had to have terrible halves, had to make comebacks and we had some great wins as well.”

He conceded the Wallabies had been inconsistent through his five years as national coach.

“At the end of the day, the Wallabies are a result of our preparations in Super Rugby and they’ve been difficult because we’ve had a lot going on,” he said. “Whether it was (the Western Force’s expulsion from Super Rugby in 2017) on the outside and then players going overseas etcetera and the format of the competition.

“But then when the guys got together, I think they really played hard for Australia every single time.

“I’m the first to know that that’s not perfect, but always proud to be a part of that, some of the great wins and also for being there after some of the losses … being able to get the team back up.

“In coaching right now, you’ve got to be a professional at being able to turn negatives into a positive and that was something I really loved doing with those lads because they responded a lot.”

Cheika is currently an assistant coach with the Sydney Roosters rugby league team.

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