Michael Cheika happy to focus on Australia’s strengths

Coach’s selection against England a repeat of the team that defeated All Blacks in August

 Michael Cheika: “My thoughts weren’t framed by their combination or this game in mind. It was just about what was best for us.” Photo:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Michael Cheika: “My thoughts weren’t framed by their combination or this game in mind. It was just about what was best for us.” Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 

Unlike, it seems, almost everyone else in this World Cup, the Wallabies are amid the hustle and bustle of central London.

Their players have to negotiate a narrow stairway which circumnavigates an old-style lift to a cramped, makeshift press conference room in the basement of their Wellington Grange Hotel in Westminster, where Michael Cheika is holding forth in his own inimitable style.

The one-time Leinster coach still talks a good game. Straight-talking, self-effacing and humorous, at the same time he doesn’t rise to any baits. At the end of his half-hour, breakfast briefing there was nothing to be pasted up on the walls of the English team room.

Of course, more to the point, his teams still play a good game. On making 14 changes from the team which beat Uruguay to reassemble the same team which kicked off their opening group win over Fiji, Cheika was true to his word in putting all his focus on his own team.

This includes the recall of Matt Giteau at inside centre, benefitting from what is called ‘the Giteau rule” wherein the ARU have permitted overseas’ players with over 60 caps to be called up for the World Cup, no doubt at Cheika’s persuasive insistence (ask Leinster CEO Mick Dawson).

Stark contrast

Stuart LancasterDavid PocockMichael Hooper

This is a repeat of the selection that eclipsed Richie McCaw, Kieron Read and Jerome Kaino when beating the All Blacks to win the Rugby Championship in Sydney in early August and was then kept under wraps until the World Cup.

“I don’t believe in this fetcher v fetcher sort of situation,” said Cheika. “The game’s not won on how many poaches you get in the game against how many the opposition gets. It’s a dynamic of the game that works and that combination works and has worked for England. My thoughts weren’t framed by their combination or this game in mind. It was just about what was best for us. All the time we’ve been concentrating on ourselves and trying to find the best out of ourselves, and we think this back row combination works.”

“And it’s not just the two of them. Most people forget about his name but (Scott) Fardy’s actually playing in there as well and he’s doing a very good job in there . . .”

On Wednesday, English number eight Ben Morgan said England would seek to use their scrum to sow “some doubts in their (Australia’s) minds” and “allow those demons to grow”.

“I know they think we’re weak in the forwards. It’s pretty obvious that they’re saying it out loud,” noted Cheika when Morgan’s comments were put to him, before adding: “They’ve done it to us. They’ve stuck it to us the last couple of times so there’s nothing we can say in our room that’s going to make any difference. The only place things are going to be different is on the field on Saturday night and that’s where we’ve got to show our colours. Talk’s cheap, you know.”

Cheika also denied the thought of knocking England out of the tournament was an extra source of motivation.

“Anything we are doing here is for us. Not to do anything to anyone else . . .”

“ When you are going to go through 80 minutes of warfare, or our version of it, you need bigger motivations than that.”

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