MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Former Australia selector Michael O’Connor has said the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign in Japan was doomed to failure due to confusion over coach Michael Cheika’s game plan and appalling training standards within the playing group.
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2019 – Pool D – Australia v Fiji – Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan – September 21, 2019 Australia head coach Michael Cheika greets his players after the match REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo
Australia lost to Wales in the group stage before exiting the World Cup in the quarter-finals with a 40-16 thrashing by England, their equal worst finish at the tournament.
O’Connor, who was recently released from his Rugby Australia contract due to financial constraints, was part of a selectors panel foisted upon former coach Cheika last year following a 2018 season in which the Wallabies won only four of 13 tests.
The former dual code international told the Sydney Morning Herald a number of players were unconvinced by Cheika’s attacking game plan.
“When you look back on it: what was it?” O’Connor said.
“That new attacking style he was going to bring to the Wallabies, it was so secretive and he had to play players out of Super (Rugby) commitments and fly them to Brisbane and educate them.
“I don’t know. It was almost like a scam.”
O’Connor also criticised the players for failing to stand up to their coach and tell him their concerns.
“It was one of the failings from that campaign; players who clearly weren’t sold on the style of play either didn’t voice their concern or were afraid of ramifications,” he said.
“Disturbing” standards at training underlined the malaise, he added.
“I’ve never ever seen as much dropped ball from a national team … If you’re going to drop it training, you’re going to drop it in a game,” added O’Connor.
“It was always going to end in tears.”
Cheika did not immediately provide comment when contacted by Reuters.
Writing by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford