Cheika agrees going to Europe in prime is chasing fool's gold

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says Australian players leaving for Europe in their prime are chasing "fool's gold".

Appearing as a guest on Fox Sports' new show, Kick and Chase, Cheika told the panel he had spoken to several Australian players plying their trade in Europe that sorely missed pulling on the gold Wallabies jersey.

"In relation to going over there and playing while you’re still in your prime and you’ve still got the ambition to play for your country, I think yes, it is," he said when asked whether it was "fool's gold".

"A lot of the guys get over there and they see the players run out in the gold jersey and miss it badly.

"Going to Europe was more a mature age player thing but as more and more money has come in over there it has become more tempting for the lads. "Will Genia, Liam Gill, Matt Toomua, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell all stand out as players still at the peak of their powers but not involved in Super Rugby.

Genia, Giteau and Mitchell all qualify for Wallabies selection under the so-called 'Giteau's Law' but Gill and Toomua do not, having played less than 60 Tests.

While the amount of money on offer is admittedly tough to turn down, Cheika said he would welcome any player willing to come back.

"The anecdotes I could tell you from players that I have spoken to without mentioning any names; it usually comes back to the fact that when you’re in the peak of your career it’s an error and you want to come home," he said.

"If that was the case we would be welcoming them back with open arms.

"We’ve been working now for just over a year, we’ve had someone doing work over there for us, getting behind-the-scenes and looking out for players who have left and might (want to) come back in the future.

"Even for them to come back and play for their club, as an older player, that’s what we want them doing."

Cheika also weighed in on the latest James O'Connor saga.

"It's disappointing for him," he said.James O'Connor has found himself in more trouble in Paris. Photo: Walmsley

"We've got to take the football out of it for a second. 

"He's obviously a good lad deep down, otherwise he wouldn't be playing this game, if he wasn't he would be off doing other stuff because he wouldn't want to play footy.

"We've just got to ... let the guy get the assistance he needs to get back personally first of all and then see what happens."

For more Fox Sports Kick and Chase, tune into Channel 501 every Tuesday at 6:30pm AEDT.