Cardiff - Australia coach Michael Cheika refused to get
carried away after watching his team destroy Wales 32-8 in the opening match of
their gruelling six-game autumn tour.
Cheika has consistently played down expectations of a first
Wallaby Grand Slam since 1984 with games lined up against Scotland, France,
Ireland and England, plus a midweek match with the French Barbarians.
But on the strength of a stunning first-half in Cardiff,
where his team ran in three tries for a 20-3 half-time lead, few would doubt
that Australia have the attacking nous and defensive hardness to severely test
all the Home Nations.
"We prepared well during the week," said Cheika,
who led his team to the World Cup final before a change in playing personnel
coincided with a dip in form.
That saw the Wallabies suffer a 3-0 whitewash at the hands
of a touring England side and a record 42-6 home defeat by New Zealand.
But, fired by flyhalf Bernard Foley, the team played a
gloriously unshackled style of rugby in Cardiff, a solid forward platform
setting up the likes of Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty to run a shambolic
Welsh defence amok.
"The boys believed in our preparation and went out
there and played that way," Cheika said, praising their "attitude and
willingness to work hard".
"Foley played very well, that goes without saying. He
had a good platform laid for him by the forwards and he had some good running
backs on the outside of him as well. It was a team effort.
"It's a good win for us today, but that's the standard
we need to remain consistent with and slightly improve on if we can."
Cheika also had a word of sympathy for Wales, comparing
their under-cookedness to Australia's own when they lost to England in June.
"It's difficult, that's the nature of the
seasons," he said.
"We've got to make sure that we keep getting fitter and
more battle-hardened for the matches ahead because they're only going to get
tougher as teams from the Northern Hemisphere get more games under their belt.
"It's a good start, obviously, but we're going to try
to take it one match at a time."
Foley exchanged an early penalty with Leigh Halfpenny before
the visitors scored three first-half tries from skipper Stephen Moore, Reece
Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani to lay the bedrock for a dominant display.
Foley himself stretched the lead early in the second period
with his own try before Scott Williams pulled one back for the home side,
Haylett-Petty having the last laugh when he crossed for a fifth try.
Wales coach Rob Howley, temporarily at the helm with Warren
Gatland having been seconded to the British and Irish Lions ahead of the 2017
tour to New Zealand, called the game "very disappointing, very
"The possession and territory at one point were over 80
percent, it wasn't what we expected," said the former Wales scrum-half.
"We never had a foothold in the game.
"When you give a side that's very cohesive, that's been
together the period of time they have been, you can see how effective they are,
particularly with the speed of ball in the contact area and we were unable to
influence that area and then we were unable to get our defensive line set so it
made it very, very difficult.
"In fairness to Australia, they took every possible
advantage that they could, created a number of tries and scored."
Howley added: "Because of the scoreboard, you start
playing too much rugby in your own half, trying to force things because you're
playing against the scoreboard and that has an influence in terms of the
Australian defensive line, which was pretty aggressive.
"I thought we could be defensively better, particularly
structurally, we made a couple of wrong reads. The boys were despondent coming
in at half-time.
"It showed that the more you play at this level exposed
to teams like that the more you learn."
Wales next face Argentina before hosting Japan and South
Africa, captain Gethin Jenkins acknowledging that the Pumas would be a tough
"Argentina are up there with the top teams, performing
well in the Rugby Championship," the prop said.
"They pose a few different threats but they're
definitely another strong team. We've got to bounce back."