Wallabies v England: no more ‘mind games’, says Cheika

England coach Eddie Jones says he’s not falling for Michael Cheika’s selection decoys

Wallabies rugby coach Michael Cheika: team captain Christian Lealiifano in doubt for first test on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Wallabies rugby coach Michael Cheika: team captain Christian Lealiifano in doubt for first test on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Michael Cheika has shrugged off yet another attempt by Eddie Jones to get under his skin, after the England coach attempted to predict the Wallabies team for the first Test.

Former Australia mentor Jones – in camp on the Gold Coast ahead of Saturday’s first Test at Suncorp Stadium – told the Courier-Mail yesterday that he wasn’t falling for Cheika’s attempted selection decoys, declaring there would be “no shocks” in his match-day 23.

Jones then went about doing Cheika’s job for him – confidently declaring Israel Folau will stay put at fullback and tipping Christian Lealiifano to wear the No 12 jersey, with James Horwill to partner Rob Simmons in the second row, Taqele Naiyaravoro or Dane Haylett-Petty on the wing, and Karmichael Hunt “at best” on the bench.

Cheika took no notice of the latest round of mind games from his former Randwick clubmate.

“I didn’t see it, you’ve caught me on the hop,” Cheika told reporters yesterday morning. “To be honest I very much want to dedicate all the energy I have to our guys and make sure I do my job properly here. I don’t want my players to think all that stuff’s going to win us the game.”

In any case, Jones looks to be off the money with at least one of his Wallaby selections. Lealiifano is yet to join the team after missing the entirety of last week’s camp on the Sunshine Coast, still waiting by his pregnant wife’s side in Canberra for the arrival of their first child.

Press on

Stephen Larkham

“It’s pretty simple – you plan for him to be there and you plan for him not to be there and you prepare both ways,” Cheika said.

Meanwhile, Naiyaravoro and Sekope Kepu have linked up with their team-mates after returning from Europe over the weekend, but an injury cloud is still hovering over Hunt after Cheika revealed the code-hopper pulled up sore from Friday’s training run, his first extended session with the team after battling a persistent groin strain.

“He screened OK last night so we’ll just see how he screens out today and runs going forward,” Cheika said.

England’s preparations for their opening Test have been disrupted by the absence of Ben Te’o from a key practice session yesterday.

Te’o was forced to miss training ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Suncorp Stadium due to “muscle soreness” and watched from the sidelines at the squad’s Sanctuary Cove base.

The uncapped 29-year-old rugby league convert is competing with Luther Burrell and Owen Farrell to make his debut at inside centre.

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