Michael Cheika says he believes Rugby Australia locked down Joe Schmidt soon after the Eddie Jones fiasco unfolded, and he never spoke to them about a return to the Wallabies.
Cheika, speaking on the Bye Round Podcast, said he “maybe” would have been interested in coming back to the team he left after the 2019 World Cup but “nobody ever contacted me about it from Australia.”
Chieka, who declared he wanted to be a head coach at the 2026 rugby league World Cup, and the 2027 Rugby World Cup, added: “I think they had Joe Schmidt locked away pretty early in the piece.
“They had an idea of what they wanted and that’s only logical. I never had any discussion about it.”
When RA was recruiting, Cheika was still hoping to stay with Argentina, who he led to the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
Cheika ended up leaving the Pumas, having previously sketched out a succession plan with his assistant and former international Felipe Contepomi.
After Argentina’s success in France, Cheika was close to staying on and told the podcast that would have been his preference.
“Obviously that’s what I would have liked to do if it was a perfect world because I was having a very good connection with them,” Cheika said.
“It’s all pretty new and fresh for me, just finishing up there. That [talking to RA] never happened and they’ve got a plan there with Joe coming in. It will be interesting to see who he brings in with his team.”
The other element of intrigue is the two-year deal signed by Schmidt, meaning Australia does not have anyone locked in for the World Cup yet.
With the Wallabies slipping to ninth in the world rankings, Cheika said that “here the big fix is in Super Rugby. It’s not at the national level. If I was them, I’d be investing everything in trying to get the best coaches to get Super Rugby going.
“There’s no coincidence that when our teams go well in Super Rugby our national team performs well, especially at World Cups.
“I’d be throwing as many eggs as I can in the Super Rugby basket and get those teams preforming at a higher level, competing with Kiwi teams regularly, winning games so that then a national coach picks up a team that’s got confidence, that’s got some skills that’s been delivered for them in the build up through the preseason and they’re fit and ready to go.”
Cheika has previously been discussed as a potential Director of Rugby for Australia, but he ruled out an upstairs role with the fire still burning to coach a team when the World Cup comes to Australia in 2027.
“I still love coaching. I want to coach in the league World Cup in ’26 and the union World Cup in ’27,” said Cheika, who has a brief, albeit unsuccessful, stint as a Japanese League One DOR.
“I’m not in with a team at the moment but those are events are unbelievable and, while I can, why would I want to [go into administration].
“I don’t want a career out of footy. I love being involved in the games. It’s not a career thing for me in that way. Those things could happen later maybe, although I’m not sure when.
“But at the moment I feel I’m learning about being better at coaching all the time and proving myself in that area. I haven’t even thought about that. I always say to my kids ‘one day I’ll have to grow up and get a real job. I don’t know what it will be but coaching for me is not a real job, it’s being part of a team.”
As a coach who spans both league and union, he has a perspective on how union needs to find its way back as a force, preaching development over NRL poaching raids.
“I’d be pathways for sure,” said Cheika.
“Leading pathways into a transition competition, have a good transition competition for young players that then leads them into Super Rugby and build that way.
“Your end product will be a good national team regardless.”