Cheika chaos hurts case against Folau
MIVHAEL Cheika's revelation that he has no working relationship with bosses Raelene Castle and Cameron Clyne has plunged Rugby Australia's legal case against Israel Folau into chaos.
All three need to work together as the former Wallaby plans to exploit a loophole to return to play.
In RA's defence to Folau's statement of claim filed with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, it rejected his assertion that the termination of his contract was a restraint of trade because it "does not prohibit Folau from seeking to secure a new player contract with Rugby Australia and the operator of an Australian Super Rugby team which would enable him to play for the Wallabies and/or an Australian Super Rugby team".
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This clause will be seized upon by Folau's lawyers because Folau does intend to seek a playing position with one of Australia's four Super Rugby franchises next year.
RA needs to work together to build a case that the re-employment of Folau - should he refuse to guarantee he will not make further inflammatory social media posts - would put the game at risk of financial ruin.
Yet Cheika and Castle, two of the major players in the case who have testified in a code of conduct hearing and therefore can be called to the stand by Folau's lawyers, have fallen out spectacularly after the Wallabies' World Cup exit in the quarter-finals.
Cheika has stood down from his job as Wallabies coach but remains employed until December 31.
A mediation hearing between RA and Folau's camp is set down for December 13, but if there is not agreement the matter will be heard in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney from February 4 next year.
Another witness who can be called is former Waratahs chief executive Andrew Hore, who quit his role two weeks ago to join the Auckland Blues.
Such turbulence within the Australian rugby ranks hardly bodes well for its legal case.
Folau is pursuing $10 million in lost and future earnings, as well as an apology for his sacking over a homophobic religious social media post.
There are no guarantees Castle or Clyne will remain in their jobs by February should the case proceed to trial.
They are under enormous pressure after the handling of the Folau saga and the Wallabies' woeful record under Cheika, who they and the RA board chose to back at the end of last season when there were calls to sack the coach.
Instead, they appointed Scott Johnson as director of rugby, essentially to oversee Cheika, who was not pleased.
That resulted in the breakdown of the relationship between Cheika, Castle and Clyne.
Castle, who is still in Japan for a SANZAAR meeting on Friday, is in the middle of negotiations on a new broadcast deal with Fox Sports and others, and the RA board is unlikely to favour her removal to bring in a new boss who must start over again.
Clyne is understood to be keen to continue, and is unlikely to stand down before the next RA annual general meeting in April.
RA has been slammed for announcing that Johnson will lead a review into the World Cup campaign given he was a selector and it would seem to be reviewing itself.
But it is understood independent reviewers could be asked to assist Johnson with the final recommendations.
Meanwhile, the acrimony between Cheika, Castle and Clyne must be navigated during Folau's legal campaign.