Michael Cheika may have lost Aviva battle but has high hopes of World Cup war

‘We were probably unlucky not to win, to be honest’ says Australia coach

Australia coach Michael Cheika with his players at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Australia coach Michael Cheika with his players at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

Bad loser that he is, which in part makes him the winner he is, Michael Cheika could scarcely conceal his acute disappointment. But while Australia may have lost the battle on Saturday, come the World Cup in under a year’s time one suspects they will have progressed into genuine contenders under the high achieving Aussie.

Although this was the first time they lost two in a row in end-of-year European tours since 2005, more pertinently Australia have won two of the three previous World Cups in the northern hemisphere, and already there are signs that Cheika is adding the trademark steel and togetherness associated with his teams to add to their rich array of attacking gifts. It was also encouraging to know that unlike a week ago against France, Ireland had faced the Wallabies’ at nearer their best.

“It’s different from last week,” said Cheika. “We got close [then] but we probably would have been lucky if we’d won. This week we got close and were probably unlucky not to win, to be honest.”

Improved performance

“I thought our work-rate was very good and our physicality was right up there. Obviously they were kicking a lot, so when we kicked back to them and then they kicked to us, we found ourselves a little bit short a couple of times back there.

Second Captains

“But all in all, I thought it was a really improved performance from the week before and I was really disappointed not to get the result.”

Interestingly, Cheika also commented: “I think they [Ireland] probably thought that when they carried ball they could outmuscle us a bit. I think most teams think they can outmuscle us there, so it’s up to us to harden right up and belie that image that there is of us. I’m not sure why it’s there.”

One suspects it won’t be for much longer.

In what must have been a slightly poignant week for the former Leinster coach, Cheika admitted: “It’s hard to really like people and then want to go out and smash them on Saturday, you know?” said Cheika with a wry grin.

“But that’s rugby and it’s very disappointing for me to lose to them as well. You want to beat them because you like them and respect them. It’s very mixed emotions the whole week. I knew everyone was lying to me when they said ‘good luck,’ but I think that’s the nature of rugby. It’s one of the great things about rugby, that atmosphere where you have mixed emotions.”

Ireland contenders

He firmly believes Ireland will be contenders themselves at the World Cup. “They’ve got a very clear style of rugby and they’re doing it very well. They’ll back themselves to do that and they’re obviously going to be a big threat going into the World Cup next year, no doubt about it.”

Asked if there was any danger of Australia being fatigued against England at Twickenham next Saturday, (in a dress rehearsal for a World Cup pool which also features Wales) when pitching up for their 15th Test of the last six months Cheika said: “You’re not tired when you’re playing for Australia.”

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