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Rugby - Australia coach Cheika backs staff, says no need for change

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Rugby - Australia coach Cheika backs staff, says no need for change
Rugby Union - Rugby Championship - Argentina v Australia - Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium, Salta, Argentina - October 6, 2018 - Australia's head coach Michael Cheika walks before the match. REUTERS/Florencia Tan Jun   -   Copyright  STRINGER(Reuters)
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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia coach Michael Cheika has dismissed the notion of making changes to his coaching staff to rejuvenate the ailing Wallabies a year out from the World Cup.

The Wallabies managed just two wins in the recent Rugby Championship and have lost eight of their past 11 tests, putting Cheika and his staff under huge pressure to turn the team around before the season-ending tour of Europe.

Rugby Australia (RA) has backed Cheika to guide the team at the global showpiece in Japan but CEO Raelene Castle said the governing body was looking at changes to the “whole environment” to get the best out of the team. [nL8N1WO002]

Cheika, who will report to the RA board in a mid-season review on Friday, denied there was any need for major changes to roles or personnel.

“I don’t think (RA) have ever questioned me in that regard,” he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday. “We do need to make some changes perhaps in ourselves and how we operate.

“Knowing the group now, and the squad of players and what it might look like going into the World Cup — now we’re only a year away — what are the key things that we think that this team will need to be successful in that tournament?

“And then how do we as coaches need to change what we’re doing to make sure that sticks? Because we’ve been inconsistent.”

Local media reported that RA had sounded out Cheika about switching his assistants around, including having defence coach Nathan Grey and attack coach Stephen Larkham trade roles.

Cheika, however, flatly denied he would consider it.

“I don’t think that would be a smart strategy,” he said.

Cheika spoke to reporters after naming a 31-man squad for the third and final Bledisloe Cup test against New Zealand in Yokohama on Oct. 28. [nL8N1WY0QT]

The match is a dead rubber after the All Blacks retained the trans-Tasman trophy with wins in Sydney and Auckland in August.

The Wallabies’ failure to win back the Bledisloe since 2003 has long frustrated the nation’s rugby fans and another heavy loss to Steve Hansen’s side in Yokohama is likely to trigger more calls for Cheika’s head.

“I know everyone likes to think it’s all been disastrous but it hasn’t been,” Cheika, who led the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup final at Twickenham, added.

“There’s plenty of good bits there as well.

“We have made a few changes as well to the way we do things based from those two games, around the defensive picture, so we’ll see if they’ve done the trick.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O’Brien)

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