His team may coming under-fire following a hugely disappointing season, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika maintains he wouldn’t want any other job.
Copping criticism from all corners about his coaching methods, choice of backroom staff and a record of just three wins in 13 matches, Cheika is under huge pressure to beat Italy in Padua on Saturday (Sunday 0100 AEDT).
The 51-year-old is revered by Italy’s rugby community following his 12-month stint as coach of Petrarca 19-years ago and was the guest of honour at a dinner held by the club this week.
But the locals would love nothing more than for the Azzurri to chalk up a first ever win over the Wallabies – a result that is unthinkable for Cheika and Australian rugby.
It would also heap huge pressure on Rugby Australia to make a coaching change before next year’s World Cup.
Despite all this adversity, Cheika said the challenge of coaching international rugby was still what drove him.
“It’s so much fun just doing it,” Cheika said.
“It’s the challenge of trying to get the best out of people. Living the difficult situations as well as the triumphant ones. It’s such a buzz.
“I got the first taste of it here (In Italy).
“We had an up and down season and I was coaching in another language, but I enjoyed it immensely.”
Cheika is still convinced his approach is the right one for Australian rugby and confident what he is doing now will lead to a strong showing at next year’s World Cup.
“I love the challenge. I’m stubborn, which is probably why I’m not people’s favourite all the time,” he said.
“I believe in everything we are doing and I know that in life things sometimes don’t go your way and you can’t cry about it.
“You’ve got to get on with it and not be ignorant of the things you have to change, make those changes and don’t be scared to make changes or don’t be scared to make decisions that not everyone may like.
“As long as your intent is for the success of the people you are representing, and the team you are a part of, then every decision is good.
“I’m never scared to make those and also accept the consequences that come with them. It’s an addiction of some sort.
“Maybe the adrenalin, the thrill of it as well as trying to make sure that you have prepared yourself correctly to make the right decisions because when it comes off it’s a real buzz.”
Cheika has made six changes to the side that lost to Wales last week although 18-year-old winger Jordan Petaia and lock Rory Arnold were late scratchings on Friday due to injury.
Marika Koroibete and Rob Simmons take their spots in the 23-man squad.
Petaia was set to make his debut alongside NSW Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon but suffered a hamstring problem.
Arnold suffered a slight fracture to his eye socket in training.
Veteran utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper is recalled after a two-year absence to win his 117th cap, moving him above former Nathan Sharpe to third on the all-time list.
“It feels like a debut, really exciting. It was a surprise for me to get selected to come on tour,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity because it’s been a long time between drinks. I never thought I’d get the opportunity again.”