Australia must find a world class 10. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Australia must find a world class 10. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

The post-Cheika era puzzle that must be solved

Find-me-a-flyhalf is the first puzzle for the new Wallabies' coach in planning for the 2023 Rugby World Cup now Michael Cheika has quit.

The man to fill the No.10 jersey in France may have started just a single game there in Super Rugby (Queensland's Isaac Lucas) or none at all (Sydney's Will Harrison).

That's how blank the whiteboard will be when the coaching successor to Cheika starts scratching his head for playmakers to work with apart from Matt Toomua.

Nowhere is there a greater void after the team's flawed exit in Japan than at No.10.

With Christian Lealiifano, Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper all heading to Japan next year, there will be a complete rewiring of playmaking for Australia's teams in Super Rugby.

For starters, gone is the experience of 167 Tests and more than 400 Super Rugby games.

The 71-Test Foley could still be picked from abroad next season under the Giteau Law but the one-time kingpin spluttered all Test season so being overlooked is more likely.

The post-mortem on the Wallabies' 40-16 crash to England in the quarter-finals needs to be brutal.

It also needs to be said that players play to game plans so this same group can be an instantly better team with a smarter non-Cheika game strategy.

Some rugby terms were redefined by Cheika.

Crazy: Running two hit-ups and then passing to a prop who knocks on, all when trying to exit your own quarter, to gift England field position for their first try. Kick it to the s---house, as Bob Dwyer used to say.

Stupid: Running all the time isn't unpredictable. It's as predictable as kicking all the time.

The Japanese use blindside raids to expertly draw defenders. The Wallabies just went one way, then the other.

As the dust settles, we can salute plusses from the World Cup.

No Wallaby has improved more this year than winger Marika Koroibete.

Cheika's gift to his successor is 19-year-old Jordan Petaia, who he punted on and won big-time because he was a quarter-final standout.

The young outside centre had a great first 41 minutes and his inside ball to Koroibete for his try was smart footy when shovelling it outside to Michael Hooper would have botched it.

Hooker Tolu Latu and Toomua raised their games.

Australia have a respected scrum and lineout again.

Decorated figures Will Genia, David Pocock and Sekope Kepu have retired from Test rugby, a host are heading abroad and prime-of-life players like Samu Kerevi will need to return from Japan to contend for the 2023 World Cup.


Dave Rennie is the frontrunner to win the job. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
Dave Rennie is the frontrunner to win the job. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty


Livewire Queensland halfback Tate McDermott, 21, will be as smart an investment as will Petaia for the Wallabies next year, while fullback Tom Banks and fellow Brumby Rob Valetini, at flanker, are ready to fly.

Players and coaches moving on is the one certainty in any footy code, not black armband day.

New young stars and precious wins can find the light again if the code can rise above another fierce debate should a Kiwi, Dave Rennie, be as certain of the coaching job as it seems.


Tom Banks, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Jack Maddocks, Will Harrison, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio

STALWARTS: Michael Hooper, Allan Alaalatoa, Nic White, Isi Naisarani, Folau Faingaa.

WILDCARDS: Isaac Lucas, Nick Frost, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tom Wright, Ryan McCauley, Angus Blyth, Harry Hockings, Liam Wright, Ben Donaldson, Angus Scott-Young, Noah Lolesio, Trevor Hosea, Andrew Deagan.