Pocock “loves” Cheika but stays out of coaching debate

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies star David Pocock says he “loves” Michael Cheika but he and his teammates are awaiting the board's decision on the national coach's future "like everyone else".

Pocock, speaking at Wednesday’s RUPA Awards lunch where he took out the Medal for Excellence, said a call on Cheika's 2019 fate, and that of assistants Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey and Simon Raiwalui, was in the hands in the Rugby Australia board.

The flanker reiterated the support he gave Cheika as a person when he won his second John Eales Medal in October, but kept out of the debate on his future.

“He’s someone I’ve learned a huge amount off (and) got a lot of respect for and ultimately there’s probably not a huge amount of value getting players talking about it because it’s a decision for people higher up in the chain,” he said.

“It’s really out of our hands. As I said at the John Eales Medal night, I love the guy, he’s someone I’ve learned a huge amount from.

"Like everyone else, we’ll wait and see what happens this week and move on.”

Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne said on Monday review of the Wallabies season and a decision on the future of coach Michael Cheika and his assistants would be finalised before Christmas.

The Wallabies had their own internal review at the end of the Spring Tour, with players and staff staying on in London for something that Pocock said was worth the extra days away.

“It was well worth doing," he said.

"It’s one of those things, at the end of a big year, it’s not exactly what you want to do is only get back to Australia on Thursday after a big year but everyone recognised the importance of it and I think that’s where you get a lot of learnings is looking at things we did do well, things we clearly didn’t and what we want to change going forward.

“There were plenty of really good discussions around and I think it was a good time for guys to connect a bit and talk about the year that was.”

The 30-year-old said players didn't hold back in their post-season input, which formed part of the material submitted to the RugbyAU board on Monday. 

Players reportedly expressed concerns about the heavy workloads under Cheika and the confusion of having too many coaching messages.

"(There was) some honest feedback and that’s what you want and that’s what we’re trying to foster, we’re trying to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are and being all of themselves to work," he said.

"That’s probably when you get more of a sense of belonging is when you can be yourself and disagree about things but commit to a way forward."

While he stayed out of the Cheika conversation, Pocock had plenty of praise for Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper when asked about the Wallabies’ chances of contending for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“I don’t think a lot of people are giving us a big shot and if you go on results, rightly so,” he said.

“But I’ve got a huge amount of confidence in Hoops.

“That’s been one of the real highlights this year, getting alongside him and seeing how much he’s grown.

“He’s got huge respect within team and I think he’s really starting to be able to read where the team is at.”

Regardless of where the coaching ends up, Pocock said the task for all the players was to ensure they took a step forward after a 4-9 Test season.

“Stats-wise, it probably was tough but there was plenty of effort that went into it and I think looking back at the year and as players we’ve hopefully learned a lot,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed being back in Australian rugby and I think personally I’ve learned a fair bit, so the challenge is to take that into next year.”