The Wallabies have a smile back on their faces and coach Michael Cheika regards that as one of his achievements since he took over the job in October last year.
Inconsistent results were bad enough but things reached their lowest ebb last year when ‘bad boy’ utility back Kurtley Beale was suspended over lewd texts he sent to team official Di Patston.
These indirectly led to a split in the dressing-room with some players supporting Beale and others Patston.
The controversy ended with then coach Ewen McKenzie resigning and Cheika being drafted in at short notice just before Australia set off on a tour of Europe.
The 48-year-old Cheika – the only coach to have won the major northern and southern hemisphere club trophies, with Leinster and the NSW Waratahs claiming the
European Cup and the Super 15 titles – is hoping this new rediscovered sense of enjoyment will carry over into a successful World Cup campaign.
“As a coach you make a long-term plan of where you want to be, but you’ve also got to knock off the short-term goals to get the side up and enjoying it as well,” said Cheika, whose side are in Group A alongside England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. “That’s a big thing.
“The smile had gone off a lot of the faces of the people involved on both sides of the paddock, inside and outside.”
Cheika, who has been in charge for just nine Tests since replacing McKenzie, said his first task was to get both players and spectators enthused by the brand of rugby being played by the Wallabies.
“Number one was to enjoy our work again and get people enjoying watching the rugby again,” said Cheika who is Australia’s third coach since the 2011 World Cup.
“When that happens, you’re more likely to do something with better quality.”
Cheika, who began his coaching career in Italy with Padova in 1999-2000, said that training had been hard as the Wallabies bid for a record third World Cup, with their two global titles both won on British soil, in England in 1991 and Wales in 1999.
“Sometimes they (the players) want to rip your head off, but all in all we’ve kept ourselves having a good time,” he said.
“It’s all part of it and you have to keep yourselves in the true perspective of what you’re doing.”
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