Michael Cheika hits back on Wallabies training, selection claims

Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has rebuffed claims from Michael O'Connor about the team's selection process and that there was a "disturbing" lack of training execution during last year's failed Rugby World Cup campaign.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, O'Connor said Cheika had dominated team selection discussions and almost always got his way, and described the coach's covert attacking blueprint as being "almost like a scam".

But it was the revelation that the Wallabies would continually drop the ball at training that really stood out, particularly after Australia exited the World Cup having made more than double England's errors in the 40-16 thrashing in Oita.

Cheika, however, said O'Connor was only privy to some of the team's training sessions.

"His attendance at training, different days and different times, could've totalled maybe four or three weeks overall," Cheika told rugby.com.au.

"So much happens in there, discussions and meetings happen at different times.

"He's not to be privy to any of those, that's just maintaining the boundaries of what you're supposed to do in that role."

O'Connor told the Herald Cheika's game plan was largely shrouded in secrecy and that he felt the coach was cagey in discussing his tactics when they sat down to discuss team selections alongside Director of Rugby Scott Johnson.

But Cheika said he was always open in the discussions with his fellow selectors.

"I don't know what he bases that on," he said.

"The discussions that you have with selectors are about selection.

"I sat down and spoke to both selectors exactly about how we were playing the game so they could have an understanding about selecting teams and nothing was ever brought up at that discussion.

"He certainly didn't not understand the tactics or the plan when we beat the All Blacks by a record score in August, it was never mentioned then."

The constant changing of the Wallabies' halves during the World Cup was a particular frustration for Australian supporters while veteran back Kurtley Beale said recently it had also made it difficult for the team to build combinations.

Cheika himself recently admitted that he should have departed the team before the start of the 2019 season, after the Wallabies had recorded a terrible 4-9 Test record in 2018 and former Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle brought in Johnson in the new Director of Rugby role.

But the former Wallabies coach also refrained from adding further fuel to the flames engulfing the code in Australia, and was disappointed O'Connor had effectively broken ranks and done just that.

"Being a selector for Australia is a prestigious position," he told rugby.com.au.

"I think it shows the disregard for it when that person's talking like that about stuff that's close to the team and is not really qualified to make those comments...I spoke at the end of the tournament and I did one interview in the Times, where I spoke about my accountability, I've not slagged anyone, not spoken poorly of any other person inside the organisation and I don't want to.

"At a certain point sometimes where the line is crossed on what the truth is you have to stand up and say, 'This is not right and that person shouldn't be talking like that'.

"This concept that I could dominate the selection process is totally ridiculous, it was a vote of three every time."