Michael Cheika had to 'restart' Wallabies after England whitewash and NZ defeats

Michael Cheika
Michael Cheika has been the Wallabies' head coach since 2014
Autumn International: Ireland v Australia
Date: Saturday, 26 November Time: 17:30 GMT Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on BBC Sport website and the Radio Ulster

Australia coach Michael Cheika says he had to "restart from zero" with his team after the 3-0 home series whitewash by England in June and further three defeats by New Zealand.

Cheika, 49, was named 2015 world coach of the year after leading the Wallabies to last year's World Cup final.

However, the former Leinster coach then faced the task of integrating several new players into the Australia squad.

"Maybe I didn't get it 100% right at the start of the year," he told AFP.

"When the new guys started coming in, from a mental perspective maybe I tried to continue on and didn't understand that maybe they and the other players who had gone back to their Super Rugby sides had to be either reminded of the project or introduced to it for the first time."

The new players drafted into the squad for the England series and Rugby Championship campaign included winger Dane Haylett-Petty, lock Rory Arnold, centre Samu Kerevi and full-back Reece Hodge.

"We needed to go back to zero and the players told who we are and how we represent Australia and buy into the project again."

Reece Hodge, Nick Phipps and Tom Robertson celebrate after Australia's win over Scotland earlier this month
Australia have beaten Wales, Scotland and France so far in November

Aussies aiming for autumn grand slam

Australia's new players appear to have taken Cheika's message on board judging by the opening wins over Wales, Scotland and France on their northern hemisphere tour.

The Wallabies opened their November series with a 32-8 win over Wales, which was followed by seeing off Scotland and France in tight contests.

Further victories over Ireland on Saturday and England on 3 December would see the Aussies emulating the 1984 Wallabies and achieving a grand slam over the home nations.

Cheika, the only coach to win both the European Cup and Super Rugby title, says his focus on establishing an identity for the team goes back to his days at Sydney club Randwick where he was a fearless number eight.

"The club who brought me up and played for really taught me on that," added Cheika, who coached Leinster to their first European Cup triumph in 2009.

"When you're in the Aussie team you are in a position to inspire young kids and people to support us and also take up playing the game."

The periodically fiery Cheika, who had an unconventional background for a national coach after making a successful career in the fashion industry, admits his character even sometimes perplexes himself.

"I'm still learning about that stuff (his character) and maybe one day I will sit back and work out exactly what it is," said the coach, who led the Waratahs to the Super Rugby title in 2014.

Michael Cheika (left) with his Leinster assistants Jonno Gibbes, Alan Gaffney and Kurt McQuilkin after the Irish province's first Heineken Cup triumph in 2009
Michael Cheika (left) guided Leinster to their first European Cup triumph in 2009

Three of Cheika's children have Irish passports

Three of Cheika's four children have Irish passports after being born in Ireland during his five-year stint with Leinster between 2005-10.

Cheika's father, Joseph, moved from Lebanon to Australia over 60 years ago and the Australian coach maintains strong links with the Middle Eastern country.

"I have a lot of family still there and my mother goes there for three months a year, although it is probably not an ideal holiday destination right now considering the countries it is between," he said.

"It (Lebanon) is very much part of my heritage and I will pass it on to my kids, for sure."

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