Australian rugby’s ‘pathetic’ new low
Michael Cheika's position as Wallabies coach remains uncertain with Rugby Australia (RA) refusing to guarantee he will lead Australia through to next year's World Cup in Japan.
Further frustrating disillusioned fans after the Wallabies' worst season in 60 years, RA chairman Cameron Clyne refused to take questions after emerging from a seven-hour board meeting in Sydney on Monday.
Clyne was savaged on social media for delivering a 51-second "non-statement" on Cheika's future after the 2015 world coach of the year presided over nine losses from 13 Tests in 2018.
Accused of buying time to unearth a replacement for Cheika - having backed the under-fire mentor barely a month ago - Clyne promised only to announce a resolution, one way or another, to the Wallabies' woes "by Christmas".
"Today was our December board meeting, it's our last board meeting of the year, we had a pretty full agenda," Clyne said in the absence of RA chief executive Raelene Castle, who opted against fronting the media in the face of crisis.
"We obviously received a presentation from Michael Cheika and we're going through a process, so I'm not really in a position to elaborate.
"We've had a presentation from Michael, we've had some data gathered from him, from his coaching staff, from the players and from our high performance unit and we need to go through a fairly thorough review process.
"We've got all the information we need and we'll be going through that process.
"I know people are very keen to know what's going on but I felt it was important to at least let you know where we are in that process and obviously we'll have more to say and have that process wrapped up ahead of Christmas."
The rapid nature of Clyne's address saw him cop a hammering from Australian rugby fans desperate for answers. Wallabies legend Brendan Cannon had a crack while Fox Sports reporter Mark Gottlieb called the 46-second media conference "a joke" and "pathetic".
Writing for ESPN, Greg Growden savaged the "ever smug chairman" Clyne's performance and accused RA of being run by "goons".
"Rugby Australia treated the Australian rugby public with complete disdain," Growden wrote.
"So if they have all the information, clearly a competent board of directors would be able to make a decision. No, no, no. We forgot that we are dealing with the master muddlers. Instead it was the usual Clyne gobbledegook about 'going through a fairly thorough review process' and that it 'will be done by Christmas'.
"Good organisations rely on good leadership. This farce showed yet again that Rugby Australia is completely bereft in that area. Smart organisations know how to treat its media with some sort of respect, not brush them off as if they are gnats.
"It was just another time wasting exercise by these procrastinators. So more weeks will be wasted as we wait for the RU board to finally stop sitting on its hands."
Clyne and Castle both backed Cheika before last month's spring tour but further disappointing losses to Wales and a record sixth-straight defeat to Eddie Jones' England had left disillusioned fans demanding change.
While it's considered unlikely Cheika will be sacked, there could potentially be changes to his coaching staff.
Monday's marathon board meeting finally ended about 30 minutes after Clyne's brief media appearance.
The Wallabies apart, the board also reviewed Australia's failed bid to host the 2023 Women's Rugby World Cup, discussed participation and community issues and financial and commercial matters.