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'Reformer' Michael Cheika the perfect man to grab Wallabies by scruff of the neck -- Caputo

The Australian coach in waiting has proven his ability to shift culture at Leinster. Now to sort out his country.

Cheika, while in charge at Leinster in 2010.
Cheika, while in charge at Leinster in 2010.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEINSTER’S AUSTRALIAN SCRUM coach Marco Caputo wasted little time in getting down to a subject close to his heart today – Australian rugby.

‘I’d just like to clarify,’ he said with a straight face slowly breaking to a smile, “that, no, I haven’t been offered the Wallabies job.’

The man who has, is well known where Caputo now makes (but does not yet call) his home. Michael Cheika has confirmed the offer from the ARU himself and has agreed in principle to take the green and gold tracksuit.

From this hemisphere, just 11 months out from a World Cup, the post looks like a poisoned chalice. A squad with serious discipline issues at the tail end of the Robbie Deans era only festered under Ewen McKenzie and the former Reds boss resigned after coming close to a win over the All Blacks.

“At this point in time Australian rugby is at a critical point where they need to have a good hard look at how they do things both on and off the pitch,” said the former Brumbies assistant.
“Michael’s got a bit of a history in being able to reform the places that he’s been. Everyone knows that he was the architect for change here in Dublin and he’s done a similar thing over with the Waratahs.”

Caputo agreed that standards of professionalism in general tend to be not quite as high Down Under compared to what he has seen since moving to Leinster.

“I think the work ethic is a lot better here [in Leinster] than it has been at home. The season’s a lot longer and the players are a lot more diligent than at home. Super Rugby’s a sprint not a marathon like it is up here.

“The work they do on the pitch is significantly more important and the way they prepare themselves, it seems to me, like there’s a lot more focus on that here than at home.”

The one big issue that has been left unresolved is whether Cheika will continue to coach the reigning Super Rugby champions Waratahs next term while simultaneously planning towards a World Cup. The ex Leinster and Stade Francais head coach would appear to prefer the double-jobbing option, and if his heart is in it then it’s possible, says Caputo:

Australia New Zealand Super Rugby Party boys: The Waratahs edged the Crusaders in a thrilling Super Rugby final. Source: Rob Griffith

“He’s probably not going to see too much of his family – you can only be in one place at one time, but he’s got a proven record at being able to get in and get the job done with a minimum of fuss and putting a stamp on things.

“Australian rugby have made a decision that they’re going to go with Cheiks. He’s got a job with the Waratahs, but they’ve been willing to back him and think what he does [at the Waratahs] is probably the right thing for them.”

Transition

So it’s good news for the green and gold then, making for an ominous challenge for the green and white of Ireland. Cheika will guide the Wallabies on a grueling five-stop tour next month, with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland the penultimate step (after the Barbarians, Wales and France, but before England) in the series. And having comfortably beaten the hosts in Dublin last November, the Wallabies won’t fear the Six Nations champions much this time around.

“Any team that goes through a transition period with a new head coach, there are going to be little bumps along the way. I think one of the things that Michael’s been good at is grabbing things by the scruff of the net and put his stamp on things. That’s probably the biggest thing that needs to be addressed.”

More on Cheika’s impact on Leinster>>> BOD thinks ‘Lunster’ fans showed a ‘lack of loyalty’

Fire and Ice: Cheika vs Schmidt at the Aviva would remind us of the differences between them

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Sean Farrell

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