Cheika puts bounce into Wallabies step

2015-09-08 13:26
Michael Cheika (Getty Images)

Sydney - Michael Cheika has performed a remarkable turnaround in the short space of time he has been in charge of Australia with a recent win over bitter rivals the All Blacks giving them the perfect boost ahead of the Rugby World Cup where they are seeking a third title.

Cheika took over from Ewen McKenzie at the end of last year and the Wallabies defeated only Wales in their four-Test European tour but they turned over South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand to claim this season's Rugby Championship to raise hopes of better times ahead.

A try by centre Tevita Kuridrani after the full-time siren earned the Wallabies a 24-20 win against the Springboks in Brisbane and two late tries gave them a 34-9 victory over Argentina in Mendoza.

But in Cheika's biggest win as the new coach, the Wallabies showed plenty of resolve to beat world champions 27-19 three tries to two in Sydney, just a month out from the World Cup in England and Wales.

However, a resounding 41-13 thrashing by the All Blacks in the return match served as a warning that there is still a way to go to turn them into World Cup winners.

Fans are hoping Cheika can turn the Wallabies around in the same way he did with the NSW Waratahs, guiding the perennial underachievers to their maiden Super Rugby title last year, playing an attacking brand of rugby.

Cheika has appointed hooker Stephen Moore as Wallabies captain up to and including the World Cup, ahead of flanker Michael Hooper, who led the Wallabies during Moore's convalescence from a season-ending knee injury last year.

"The last World Cup we won was in 1999 and there is a group of players here who have to go to a place where they haven't been before," Cheika said.

"They haven't had those experiences. They have to discover what it takes to get that.

"In that way it is a little bit similar. The Waratahs had not had that either. Hadn't achieved the end goal. They needed to go somewhere they hadn't gone before.

"Even though Australia has gone there before as a nation in rugby this generation of players haven't had those experiences. Once they've got the experience they can keep building on it. That's the key."

Waratahs chairman and former Test second-rower Roger Davis is confident Cheika can emulate his success at provincial level to the Wallabies, particularly in partnership with assistant coach and Wallaby fly-half great Stephen Larkham.

"Michael's great skill is he is a passionate leader. A passionate coach. He has really good insights into what drives and motivates people," Davis said.

"He has a very simple, direct, very confrontational, physical style of play. The partnership with Larkham is going to be really interesting because Larkham is a different sort of coach. He is creative. He'll be a wonderful foil to Michael's rather blunt, direct approach."

Australia will need all those qualities in a Group of Death with England and Wales in their pool along with Fiji with only two teams going through to the knockout rounds.

The Wallabies maligned forward pack has been hard at work under new scrum coach, former Argentinian hooker Mario Ledesma to beef up their set-piece frailty.

Ledesma, the Pumas 56-Test veteran, helped improve the Waratahs scrum under the coaching of Cheika this year before he was asked to help make the Wallabies scrum into a force.

"I think the work we've done not only in the last week or two but in the Rugby Championship with Mario, the players have all bought into the philosophy that we want to take into games," said prop James Slipper.

"We're going to have to keep improving because it's going to be a major focus for us moving forward into the World Cup.

Cheika was instrumental in getting a relaxation of the eligibility of overseas-based players Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to be available for Wallabies' selection to deepen the national team's talent pool.

"They're class players, that's why they're back here," Cheika said of the Toulon-based pair.

Read more on:    wallabies  |  rwc 2015  |  michael cheika  |  rugby


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