Pocock, Genia lead defence of Cheika against "potshots" after World Cup crash

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

David Pocock has joined a chorus of past and present Wallabies players defending Michael Cheika from a post-World Cup pile-on, saying “potshots” like Quade Cooper’s sledge toward the outgoing coach are disappointing.

Pocock went into bat for Cheika after arriving home in Sydney, following the Wallabies’ quarter-final crash out at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Pocock was asked what he thought about Cooper’s comment on social media, where the Japan-based fly-half responded to to the news of Cheika’s decision to not seek re-appointment by tweeting: "If he actually cared about Aus rugby he would have done it a while ago.”

Pocock, who has announced his retirement from Test rugby, said the comments were disappointing.

“As players we always find it disappointing when people on the outside are taking pot-shots ... there’s a huge amount of work that’s gone in and Cheik’s the kind of guy who goes in to bat for his players, behind the scenes,” Pocock said.

"He’s always wanting guys to be able to just focus on their rugby.

“You can't please everyone. Everyone’s got different opinions — I’ve got a huge amount of time for Quade, we go way back.

“People are going to say what they want, especially when you fall short like we did.

“There’s no excuses, we prepared well, we’ve just got to cop it on the chin, we weren’t good enough on the night.”

Arriving in Brisbane, Will Genia also slammed the pile-on towards Cheika after the England defeat. Social media and mainstream media commentary has been largely critical of Cheika and his methods.

“It’s pretty brutal in that sense. More than anything, I’m disappointed in a lot of people kicking him when he’s down,” Genia told the Courier Mail.

“The guy served for five years and he was obviously good at his job to keep it that long.

“I feel he deserved an opportunity to be celebrated as much as the players who were finishing like Poey, Keps and I.”

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said he didn’t want to give Cooper’s comment any more “air” but praised Cheika for his role in improving him as a player and a person.

"Me personally, Cheika has been amazing. I owe that man a lot,” Hooper told media.

"The passion that he represented us with, and stood up for us all the time. And he genuinely wanted the best for Australian rugby. Not just for him, selfishly, being the coach of the team. 

"But wanting the best for Australian rugby and after he is long gone, to leave something that is positive. He was always a big believer in that and I think he will, certainly with me. He has made me a better person, not just a rugby player, so I have a lot to thank him for."

Players also took to social media to express their thanks for Cheika.

"I don’t use Twitter much, but I wanted to say thanks to a man who is copping some heat. Thanks Cheik,” Matt Toomua wrote.

"You made me a better player and person. I didn’t always agree with you but I ALWAYS respected you, and never doubted your commitment to improving Rugby Australia.”

Matt Giteau also expressed his gratitude to Cheika on Twitter.

"Just want to thank a man that took a gamble on me, changed the rules amd brought me back from France to play at another World Cup and the opportunity to earn 100 test caps. Forever grateful,” he write.

Former Wallabies lock Dean Mumm also paid credit to Cheika.

"A man who always gave everything and instilled a inherent belief in the team. The best and happiest times I had in the Wallabies gold jersey were under his watch,” Mumm tweeted.

Jordan Uelese also tweeted in agreement with Toomua: "Completely agree. Thanks Cheik for giving me my first shot at test footy and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself . Teaching me my real why and bringing the best out of me . All the best with what the future holds."

Brumbies forwards coach Laurie Fisher also paid his respects.

"Michael Cheika, like all of us, has his flaws but full respect for the love, encouragement, backing and support he has given his players unconditionally," he tweeted.