WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has officially been told to “moderate his conduct and language” in camera-range at Test matches but has avoided any disciplinary action over his outburst from the Twickenham grandstand last weekend.
Cheika apologised for any offence caused to disciplinary officer Jon Davis who conducted an investigation into comments and conduct arising from the Australia-England Test.
Amateur lip-readers picked up Cheika making a frustrated shout of “f***ing cheats” from the open coaches’ box at Twickenham when an early Michael Hooper “try” was disallowed for off-side last Sunday.
It took five days since the Test but the air was finally cleared on Thursday by an investigation triggered by a referral from World Rugby and media reports.
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“Mr Cheika and the Australian Rugby Union co-operated with the investigation,” read a statement from the Autumn Internationals Disciplinary office.
“In light of Mr Cheika’s explanations of his conduct, his clear understanding of the need to protect and promote the interests of the sport, and his open apology for any offence caused, the Disciplinary Officer for the Autumn Internationals (in consultation with World Rugby) has decided not to pursue any disciplinary proceedings against Mr Cheika.
“The Disciplinary Officer has, however, urged Mr Cheika to be aware of the risks during matches when he knows he will be being filmed and potentially broadcast, and where possible to moderate his conduct and language accordingly.
“Mr Cheika has accepted the position.”
Cheika was unavailable for comment and did not appear as normal at the Wallabies team announcement in Edinburgh because the investigation was still at hour away from a result at that point.
He might not speak publicly at all before the Test which might wisely not distract from the game against Scotland at Murrayfield as the main focus of this week.
The investigation’s result is a fair outcome. Cheika’s heart-on-the-sleeve emotions have attracted polarising views.
“I really hope this is not true, nothing Cheika did that bought the game into disrepute,- in fact him & Eddie J added to a compelling match,” former England coach Sir Clive Woodward tweeted in Cheika’s defence.
Former Wallabies Ben Darwin, Stephen Hoiles and David Campese were dismayed Cheika’s comment reached the point of an investigation and said he was hard done by.
This is not about Cheika dropping the F-bomb and never has been.
I’ll defend Cheika’s right to turn the sky blue with a few swear words every day of the week. The moment he dropped “cheats” on the end of a colourful moment of acceptable anger, the landscape changed.
Using the word “cheats” crossed the line and the Wallabies coach needs to pull his head in on such bleats.
Cheika is a superb figure at the helm of this Wallabies team because he has some of the inner mongrel that Australian teams often lack. He punts blokes that don’t have it and gives chances to young forwards like Lukhan Tui, Izack Rodda, Sean McMahon, Jack Dempsey and Matt Philip who do with dollops of physical intent.
I like the DNA he has implanted in this team and the Wallabies will be a vibrant force to rattle every opponent at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Does that entitle him to a free use of the word “cheats”? Never.
It doesn’t make him a boring cardboard coach if he takes “cheats” out of his vocabulary. Coaches need to have boundaries too and it is a fair outcome that Cheika has been given some.