Rugby: ARU boss says Michael Cheika's position not under pressure

Michael Cheika, Head Coach of Australia. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Cheika, Head Coach of Australia. Photo / Getty Images

Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver says Wallabies coach Michael Cheika's position isn't under pressure despite five straight losses culminating in last Saturday's 42-8 thrashing by the All Blacks.

Pulver on Wednesday tipped a much-improved showing in Saturday's return clash with New Zealand in Wellington and reiterated Cheika would coach the team through to the 2019 World Cup.

"Our national coach is hurting and really the entire team is hurting," said Pulver.

"That's why I'm really confident you're going to see a team that does play with a lot of pride on the line this weekend and I think you'll see a far superior performance."

Pulver dismissed any suggestion Cheika's job could come under scrutiny after starting the season with a 3-0 home series loss to England and last weekend's embarraassing defeat.

"No of course not, Michael Cheika is our coach right through the World Cup and he's a world class coach," Pulver said.

"At the elite level of rugby things ebb and flow and that's what we're seeing here. Our boys will fight back."

Pulver also vigorously defended the ARU's change in selection criteria last year which allowed overseas-based players with seven years continuous service in Australia and 60 Test caps to be selected for the Wallabies.

He brushed off criticism that bringing back veterans retarded the development of younger players and could cause division in the national squad.

"I think it is a very good policy and I have complete sympathy for Michael Cheika's approach," Pulver said.

"When you've got young developing players like a Reece Hodge in the centres coming through as part of the Wallaby program, for him to train and be mentored by the likes of Matt Giteau is priceless.

"You are trying to get the balance right between a strong enough team to win the game and having a development pathway that brings elite talent through, so I think the policy change was very well-placed and I think Michael Cheika is applying it very well."

On the day the Olympic gold medal-winning Australian women's team returned home, Pulver noted Australia had stolen a march on the rest of the world by centralising their sevens program back in 2013 and made it clear the ARU wasn't about to rest on its laurels.

"I would go down and watch training and our women would defend against our men and it was the most incredible training experience I've ever seen.... no wonder they took it to another level," Pulver said.

"There's lots more we can do but we've made a really good start."



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