Australia are likely to face stiff competition to sign the New Zealander with New Zealand Rugby believed to be interested in bringing him home.
She also re-affirmed the 60-Test Giteau Law would be reviewed, potentially paving the way for Australian players to be called up for national honours from anywhere in the world, regardless of their experience.
But in the wake of the Wallabies’ 40-16 steamrolling at the hands of a rampant England in Saturday’s quarter-finals, the RA chief executive was also forced to defend her organisation’s decision to back Cheika to lead the team to the World Cup.
“I think we did a thorough review at the end of last year. We looked at the options that we had available to us that could not just think about Rugby World Cup but think about the longer-term options for rugby in Australia,” she said.
“We made the decision in appointing Scott Johnson into that [director of rugby] role and to think about, yes, the improvements he could bring to the program in the short-term, but definitely with the long-term strategy as well.”
The December review was conducted after the Wallabies’ worst season since 1958, with only four wins from 13 Tests. Cheika presented a raft of potential changes to the board, including letting go his attack coach at the time, Stephen Larkham.
Early this year that change was confirmed, as well as the departure of athletic performance head Haydn Masters, who was replaced by Dean Benton. Melbourne Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne joined the set-up in June.
At the time, board sources told the Herald they were worried about the financial implications of sacking Cheika, whose contract runs until the end of this year.
RA potentially would have had to pay out Cheika’s deal as well as pay a new coach on an interim or permanent basis. Sources also cited a lack of alternatives to Cheika so close to a World Cup.
Instead, Johnson was brought home from Scotland, where he was director of rugby in the national set-up, and installed with a brief to start planning for the post-2019 campaign.
He was appointed Australian rugby’s high performance overlord and one of two independent selectors (along with former sevens coach Mick O’Connor) who sat alongside Cheika in the first formal Test selectors’ panel since the pre-Robbie Deans era.
This year the Wallabies turned out better performances, including an inspiring win over the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Perth. But they were also dogged by familiar issues, including a lack of a commanding five-eighth, poor skill execution and tactical naivety.
Their loss on Saturday is the worst World Cup exit in the country’s history on a points basis and it is also the first World Cup since 1995 at which Australia failed to beat a single tier-one nation.
In South Africa they lost to eventual champions the Springboks in the group stages and then were bowled out by England in the quarter finals.
he has previously been on record saying that if we didn’t win, he would not be the Wallabies coach going forward.
In Japan this year they suffered a narrow loss to Wales and were again booted out by England in the final eight.
While Rennie is understood to be RA’s target, Castle said there was a list of potential candidates.
“We have been doing a lot of work to make sure we understood from a market perspective who we think the right coaches could be for Rugby Australia and who might be available,” she said.
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.