Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was clear his team couldn’t afford to be distracted by the Israel Folau issue. Picture: AAP
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was clear his team couldn’t afford to be distracted by the Israel Folau issue. Picture: AAP

Slack: No I(zzy) in this team for Cheika

There's the law, there's fairness, there's freedom of speech.

When it comes to the Israel Folau controversy, they are all seemingly clad in grey. However the playing of the game is black and white.

From all the opinions expressed over the past fortnight, perhaps the most unarguable came from Wallaby coach Michael Cheika when he claimed that as things stand, he wouldn't choose Folau.

His decision has nothing to do with a distaste for ultraconservative Christian thinking, freedom of speech or the law. Rather, it was about the concept of "team".

"When you're playing in a team environment, the team is king," Cheika explained in a television interview.

"It's the thing that everyone contributes to. That's what makes the best teams - the book worm, the quiet guy, the joker. All of them give a little bit of themselves to get the team to the next level."

 

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was clear his team couldn’t afford to be distracted by the Israel Folau issue. Picture: AAP
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was clear his team couldn’t afford to be distracted by the Israel Folau issue. Picture: AAP

 

"The diversity inside of the team," he continued, "the lands we come from, our beliefs, inside of the team, that's no problem. That's accepted and it's always been like that. It's when it gets outside of the team and it starts to affect the team adversely, that's when it's a problem."

Asked if it was fair to ask Folau to choose between football and faith, Cheika didn't play God.

"I don't know if it's fair or not. I'm not a moral judge and I'm not judging anyone on their beliefs. I'm the football coach and my role is to ensure the team is together under one banner."

So regardless of what unfolds after all the legalities and employment rights and wrongs are sorted over the coming weeks, there doesn't seem to be any grey coming from Cheika, just green and gold.

It was an unusually revealing response from the Wallaby coach.

Professional coaching 101, lesson one: "When talking to the media, tell 'em nothing, take 'em nowhere."

Cheika got a high distinction in the subject.

 

Will Genia would be an ideal Wallabies captain is Michael Hooper if not a certain selection  at the World, says Andrew Slack. Picture: AAP
Will Genia would be an ideal Wallabies captain is Michael Hooper if not a certain selection at the World, says Andrew Slack. Picture: AAP

 

No one is better at simultaneously using a lot of words and saying nothing, and there was no finer example of his skill in this area than on a recent rugby show where he was asked about back row selections for the World Cup.

Given his controversial option where David Pocock and Michael Hooper have been starting players, fans would have liked something approximating a legitimate answer.

Unsurprisingly, we finished none the wiser as he tossed out a list of contenders as long as John Eales' arm.

Regardless though of who he is really thinking about for his numbers 6,7 and 8, it could be interpreted that incumbent captain Michael Hooper might not be a certainty for selection in the ultimate starting XV.

If asked publicly, Cheika would undoubtedly back Hooper. He appears both a very committed player and captain, and there has been enormous investment, time and financial, put into him. However, if he is not a certain starter in our best team, can he still be skipper?

As a former captain, who wasn't often a certain selection, I'm comfortable answering in the affirmative, but whether that is the ideal scenario is another matter altogether.

If you're a fan of the captain being a walk up start for selection, and you had to pick your World Cup squad today, Will Genia wins a one-horse race to have the (c) beside his name.

His form is superb, he is ultra-competitive, antsy but with a relaxed side, driven and very experienced, has a good public image and manages referees well.

With the thought of no Folau for the Wallabies World Cup campaign, would Cheika gamble on a change of captain as well?

One certainty is he was more forthcoming on the former matter than he is likely to be on the latter.

News Corp Australia


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