Get the lifebuoys ready, because the Wobbly Waiheke Wallabies are about 80 minutes away from potential World Cup prep chaos.

One Eden Park onslaught from the All Blacks will leave coach Michael Cheika and his poor test record gasping for air a year out from the rugby carnival in Japan.

Australia's Waiheke Island retreat is of choppy waters that's for sure, a valiant Cheika effort to explain or deflect attention from the second half capitulation in Sydney not up to scrutiny as the Eden Park graveyard looms.

Cheika can roll out all the team-in-development claims he likes, and toss in a bit of family melodrama for good measure, but the home turf disaster in Sydney was a telling indictment of his four-year regime.


And Cheika's claim of being his own best critic already looks dubious given the savaging he received for one quarter this week.

It is difficult to know if another coach could squeeze much more out of those Wallaby lemons last Saturday night, and maybe not, but even charitable Cheika analysts would condemn his stewardship on their lineout performance alone.

The Aussies, minus a couple of props, may not have the technique and muscle to hold up in the scrums, but an inability to hoist blokes and throw the ball with much precision is another matter.

The Wallaby scrum has often been a clever holding operation with a nifty line in rearguard action.

But the Wallabies have fielded many of the finest lineout forwards in history. That poor excuse for a lineout in the first Sydney test was actually un-Australian.

No wonder a veteran rugby writer decided enough was enough and trained a flame thrower on the mess, calling for Cheika and his staff to be sacked.

The first Bledisloe Cup game was a split personality conundrum for the Wallabies, of two steps forward in impressive first half umbrella defence, and about 10 backwards in the second.

It made about as much sense as a Donald Trump tweet, and worse has followed.

Australia captain Michael Hooper and head coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Photosport
Australia captain Michael Hooper and head coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Photosport

Coach Cheika's decision this week to bring his family into play suggests he is a man whose thinking is not entirely straight as the World Cup year approaches.

To ram home the point that he knows things are not exactly hunky-dory, Cheika revealed that two of his kids had been in tears in the tunnel after the game.

We don't need to know this, it doesn't help our understanding of anything, and while this may have been a spur-of-the-moment comment, it is over-sharing that invites an invasion of privacy which most sports people would probably complain about.

While I'm not sure this is the way it was intended, he appears to have played the kids card for a sympathy vote. After that, there are no further cards to play.

He's an interesting character for sure.

Cheika doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve. He's got the full range of vital organs on display.

TV's obsession with his antics in the coaching box reveals a man who takes so many things very badly that he comes across as lacking perspective. In private, on the training paddock, well who knows? He may be a well-considered genius, but it's not coming across that way.

If the Wallaby tight five gets chewed up and spat out again by Brodie Retallick and co. and the rest of the performance follows suit, the criticism of Cheika will turn into a torrent.

The column which has caused the initial wounds was written by Greg Growden, without doubt the finest of Australian rugby journalists. His ripping attack against Cheika on ESPN's rugby site, which highlighted the Wallabies' lack of skill, cannot be dismissed lightly.

Guile rather than grunt has always been at the heart of the best in Australian rugby, and they used to find clever ways around their deficiencies.

There might be resistance from Growden's successors on the daily papers for now, leaving the veteran on a fairly impressive limb.

But he's started the ball rolling, no doubt about that. Any repeat of the second half capitulation and the rest of the Aussie rugby media will feel duty-bound to join him. At that point, a fleet of Perry Masons would have trouble defending Cheika, and Australian rugby is not always the most united of operations.

David Pocock's ball snaffling genius can delay the almost inevitable but the 2018 Wallabies look hopelessly vulnerable, the All Blacks smelling blood and in a mood to cut loose again. If they do, all hell could break loose afterwards.