Michael Cheika says he’s just getting started as he prepares to set the Wallabies up for Rugby World Cup success in Japan in 2019.
Cheika received a huge accolade for his transformation of the Wallabies in his first year at the helm by landing coach of the year gong at the World Rugby Awards dinner in London on Sunday night, ahead of his World Cup-winning All Blacks rival Steve Hansen.
Cheika, who is off contract as Wallabies coach in 2017, stopped short of committing to being in charge in four years time.
But, considering the team’s progress to become World Cup finalists in his 12 months in charge, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) would be wise to open negotiations on a new, extended deal to take in the 2019 World Cup.
Cheika said his short-term and long-term goals remained the same: making the Wallabies stronger every chance he gets.
“I want the team to be in the position to do well at the next World Cup,” Cheika said, when asked if he’d be in charge in 2019.
“I’m signed until ’17 and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the team does well in its play and how we represent the game in Australia between now and then.
“I want this year’s team to leave next year’s team something to work with and so on.
“Then whatever happens from there we’re going to be in good shape as a nation to kick on and keep improving the game.
“By the time we get to ’19 the goal will be to have the depth to cover all possible scenarios and we’ve got rugby players who are playing good rugby and representing their country well.
“…We can make the game better in Australia at international level and provincial level, and also our own team, the way we play, our results, and the support behind us.
“We’re just starting will all that stuff, it’s not the finish.
“I really want to push on from here and use it as the scar, you know.
“You can’t take this for granted, you can’t take that you’re going to get to another one for granted.
“You’re going to have to earn getting to another one and we’re going to have to earn that over the next year or two in building the foundations to get to another one when 2019 comes.”
Despite falling 34-17 to New Zealand in Saturday’s final, Australia will take great confidence from their impressive tournament, in which they exceeded all expectations except their own.
New Zealand face a transitional phase now, with Daniel Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Conrad Smith all confirming they’d played their last Tests – while champion Richie McCaw is also expected to retire, though he danced around the topic after Saturday’s win.
With a young core led by Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, David Pocock and Scott Sio, Australia are well-placed to make ground on their trans-Tasman rivals.
But Cheika was cautious in writing off the back-to-back world champions, and said the Wallabies had much more work to be done to catch their fierce rivals.
“They’ve got an excellent coach and coaching team and they’re getting better,” he said.
“For us to get close to them we’ve got to improve at a faster rate than they are and I think we’ve got that in us, so when the games come against them we’ve just got to be ready for them.”