OITA -- Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle says the mission to find a new Wallabies coach has been underway for some time, with the governing body having canvassed the market in the lead-up to the World Cup in Japan.
Michael Cheika's time as Wallabies coach ultimately came to an end following Australia's 40-16 thrashing at the hands of England in Oita on Saturday night.
And while an emotional Cheika called for "compassion" in refusing to discuss his future immediately following that defeat, he on Sunday afternoon told a conference call he would not be seeking reappointment beyond his current contract which expires on Dec. 31.
Speaking roughly 90 minutes after the Wallabies' exited the tournament in Japan, RA boss Castle told the travelling Australian media contingent Director of Rugby Scott Johnson would start to examine Australia's failed campaign immediately. She again reaffirmed that position once Cheika announced his exit on Sunday.
"We will start a review process which Jonno [Director of Rugby Scott Johnson] will lead, which will look at everything across the whole season, the 2019 season, not just the Wallabies' performance at the World Cup but wider and deeper than that to make sure that any decision-making that happens going forward we have the right people in place to support that," Castle said.
Cheika was hauled before the Rugby Australia board at the end of 2018 to explain the Wallabies' disastrous 4-9 Test season and just how he planned to turn the team's fortunes around ahead of the World Cup.
He kept his job as a result, but could only add a win over a 14-man All Blacks and a narrow victory over Argentina in Brisbane, as well as largely unconvincing victories over Samoa, Fiji, Uruguay and Georgia.
Those results and Saturday night's 40-16 loss to England mean Cheika's Test coaching record finishes at 52.23 percent, the former Leinster and Waratahs boss having won just 34 of 67 matches with two further draws.
"No, I don't think anyone would think that we have been satisfied with the results. I think it has been a very challenging time," Castle said of Cheika's work since the Wallabies made the final in 2015.
"As I said, we looked very long and hard at the end of last year and what we felt we needed to put in place, and that's not just about the Wallabies head coach, that's about putting a high performance plan in place that allows growth and development of our 16s, 18s, right up to our Wallabies.
"And we have seen some improvements because of that processes in place, with our 18s winning and our 20's winning - or nearly winning but performing really well. And the integration of the Super Rugby franchises into the Wallabies up and down and working much more closely together is the system that we need, and we need it to work really well. So there have been some changes already. Those changes will put us in a much stronger place moving into the next four years."
While Dave Rennie remains the hot favourite to succeed Cheika as Wallabies coach, Castle said Rugby Australia had already started a process of finding the right man to succeed Cheika.
"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, and so that work has been done and continues to be done and so that will be part of the review process."
Asked whether Eddie Jones, the man who masterminded Australia's downfall in Oita and will finish with a perfect 7-0 record over Cheika at Test level, would figure into the equation, Castle gave little indication they would try and wrangle the former Wallabies coach home from England and the remaining two years of his contract with the Rugby Football Union.
"I understand he is contracted through to the end of England," Castle said. "And, as I said, we've done the work on different names, different understandings. We've got a list of people and we know who we will be talking to."
Castle also restated Rugby Australia's previous position that the Giteau Law was under review and could be altered to better suit what she described as the "modern" rugby world.
Closer to home, the success of Australian rugby has long been tied to the Wallabies. Australia's exit from the World Cup at the quarterfinal stage for only the third time, all three of which have come against England, is indeed a huge blow to the sport Down Under.
Still, Castle did her best to soften the impact of the Wallabies' exit from Japan by pointing to some of the other areas where the game was prospering in Australia.
"There is no doubt it gives you the icing when the Wallabies are going really well. You get momentum and all those sports fans jump on board and support Rugby Australia," Castle said. "But there are lots of other great things happening in Rugby Australia. Women have qualified for the Olympics, we've got our men going into qualifications this month, in the next few weeks; participation numbers are strong.
"So the whole sort of dramatic, yes this is the future of the sport, is just not realistic. Do we need the Wallabies performing consistently and winning games and being in the fight for Bledisloes and World Cups, absolutely, and that is the process and the structure that we are putting in place."