Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle has responded to Michael Cheika's revelation he had "no relationship" with her as the fallout from a disastrous World Cup continues.
Cheika will not seek reappointment as Wallabies coach after England knocked his side out of the tournament in Japan with a 40-16 win in the quarter-finals.
Speaking after the loss, he fired a parting shot at Castle and RA chairman Cameron Clyne.
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"I think it's no secret that I pretty much have got no relationship with the CEO and not much with the chairman," Cheika said. "(Director of rugby) Scott (Johnson) is a lovely bloke and I get on fine with him but I'm not really into that type of thing. I like to take responsibility. I found that a little bit difficult at times."
The post-mortem into where Australian rugby has gone so wrong is already in full swing, with a host of legends taking aim at everything from Cheika's game-plan to the performance of the RA board.
Former RA boss John O'Neill told The Sydney Morning Herald Cheika's revelation was "disturbing" and Castle elaborated on their relationship in an interview with veteran Australian rugby commentator Greg Clark on Fox Sports last night.
She said changes implemented in response to a run of disappointing results, such as installing Johnson as director of rugby above Cheika and introducing Michael O'Connor as a third selector, were partly the reason for the breakdown between the CEO and coach.
"Yeah I think it surprised me," Castle said when asked about Cheika's comment on the pair's relationship.
"At the end of the day, the CEO-coach relationships are never straightforward. Having gone through a number of them myself, you understand the ups and downs.
"We put some changes in place that Michael expressed he was not 100 per cent comfortable with. But at the end of the day, what I can tell you is the board continued to support Michael and gave him all the support he needed going into this World Cup."
Pressed further on when exactly their relationship fractured, Castle said: "We put some changes in place at the start of the year which is probably not the ideal scenario.
"Those changes were important to make sure we had stability in rugby in Australia going forward."
NSW Waratahs and Wallabies star Nick Phipps agreed the changes that reined in Cheika's power contributed to added tension between the coach and his bosses, which then impacted the players.
"It (having three selectors) was always going to be trouble and the board probably knew that at the time," Phipps told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"Cheik and Scott are both loud, big, powerful men so them going at it behind closed doors, the players never really knew that was going on.
"You could tell towards the end a lot of things were happening that weren't as congruent or Cheik's ways as to earlier seasons, ultimately he said that made it feel very hard."
Castle said changes had to be made because results were so poor in the lead-up to the World Cup. Cheika's winning record stands at 50 per cent but a quarter-final exit is the worst performance by a Wallabies side since 2007, while last season four wins from 13 Tests represented Australia's worst year since 1995.
Castle said the results were "not acceptable" and backed the decision to change things up ahead of rugby's showpiece event.
"If you look at the results we'd had previous to that, there was a situation where a 50 per cent win rate for the Wallabies was not acceptable and we had to have a look and see what it is that we could do, considering that we'd appointed two previous Wallabies coaches in a crisis situation. That's not an ideal play and way to appoint two coaches," Castle said.
"We wanted to make sure that we had time that we could go through a process. The changes we made were about setting us up for the longer term and now we have an opportunity with Michael not being reappointed to go through a process of appointment and through a proper process."
Castle said she and the board still had to accept some responsibility for the World Cup horror show but is optimistic Australian rugby can return to its glory days, and is hopeful a review, led by Johnson, will pave the way for a successful rebuild.
"The communication of the whole rugby structure, working together and not fracturing is incredibly important." Castle said. "It's the first time rugby in this country has been able to have an aligned high-performance system and we know, with Scott Johnson leading that, we will get better outcomes in the longer term."
CHEIKA'S REVELATION 'DISTURBING': EX-RA BOSS
While Cheika has been in the firing line, with many blaming him for the Wallabies not performing up to scratch in the World Cup, former RA CEO O'Neill said Castle and the board needed to accept some of the blame for keeping the coach in the job even when results were not good enough.
"Ultimately the buck does stop with the board and CEO," O'Neill told the Herald. "People with experience in this space know it's a collective responsibility and thus the accountability is shared widely.
"They had the opportunity (to implement changes last year).
"Reports that the coach and CEO relationship was non-existent is disturbing. After all, the coach reports to the CEO. The head coach can't ever be untouchable or unchallenged. The CEO is the one who has the job of managing the coach."
Castle told The Herald: "CEOs and head coach relationships are always very challenging and (it's about) trying to find the right working relationship and certainly with the changes that were made at the beginning of this year. Sometimes head coaches find bit difficult to deal with those changes inside an environment."
Wallabies legends like Greg Martin, George Gregan, Rod Kafer, Phil Kearns and Andrew Slack have been among the chorus of voices to emerge since the Wallabies' loss to England, calling for change right the way through Australian rugby if it wants to regain its position as a superpower in the sport.