Rugby Union

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Paris adieu means chase on for Cheika

MICHAEL CHEIKA is in high demand as three Australian provinces, including the Waratahs, and numerous overseas clubs are certain to approach him following yesterday's news that he will not continue as Stade Francais director of rugby next season.

French media yesterday reported that Cheika would be replaced next year, his assistants Christophe Laussacq and Mario Ledesma expected to succeed the former Randwick and Australian under-21 representative.

According to sources close to Cheika, the split with the Paris club, where he has been in charge since 2010, was amicable.

While this improves the Western Force's hopes of attracting Cheika following Richard Graham's departure to the Queensland Reds, other Australian provinces have been interested in luring the highly talented coach, who won a Heineken Cup with Leinster in 2009.

For several years, high-ranking Waratahs officials have been keen to entice Cheika, but the timing has never been right.

When there was a head coaching vacancy, Cheika wasn't available - as he was instead involved with a European club.


In recent times, though, it is understood there has been interest in trying to lure Cheika back to Sydney, possibly as an assistant coach to Michael Foley, who is in the first year of a three-year contract. However, Cheika would be unlikely to accept that, realising that the best way to get the Waratahs back on track would be if he were in charge of the coaching staff and where he could have some control over the organisation's head office.

Nonetheless, with the Waratahs in danger of missing out on this year's finals, Cheika's name is certain to again be mentioned at Moore Park as a potential alternative.

Cheika has links with the Waratahs playing group, as captain Rocky Elsom played with him at Leinster and understands his capabilities. His name has also been mentioned at the Melbourne Rebels as a possible future head coach. He will also be in high demand with northern hemisphere clubs but, with a young family, Cheika could be persuaded to returning to Australia.

He has a reputation for being a tough, straight and smart coach, who is as hard on himself as his players. He has the ability to attract talented players and is renowned for gaining the respect and loyalty of high-profile performers. He succeeded in transforming Leinster and, when moving to Stade Francais, embraced the Parisian culture and the club. However missing out on a final play-off, finishing seventh in this season's Top 14, has worked against him.

Cheika has for some time been on the top of the list of candidates for the Force coaching position and is known to have the support of several senior players in Perth.

The Force are scheduled to start the formal selection process this week, with other candidates including former All Blacks winger John Kirwan, former Force assistant coach John Mulvihill, interim coach Phil Blake, former Wallabies assistant coach Tim Lane, former Waratahs assistant coach Brian Melrose and recent ACT Brumbies coach Andy Friend.

The coaching recommendation will come from a committee that includes several Force board members, players' representative Scott Staniforth, captain David Pocock and team veteran Nathan Sharpe.