Sydney - Coach Michael Cheika has vowed the Wallabies will
lift the spirits of the Australian game amid a demoralising Super Rugby campaign
in this week's start to the international Test season.
Australian rugby is in the doldrums with its five franchises
struggling and one, as yet unnamed, facing the axe when Super Rugby reverts to
15 teams next season form the current 18.
New Zealand teams are currently unbeaten in their 23 Super
Rugby matches against Australian opposition this year.
Cheika said Sunday the Wallabies' first five Tests of 2017
were going to be "like Everest for us", but added that the players
were ready for the fight.
Super Rugby takes a back seat for the next three weeks as
the Wallabies take on Fiji, Scotland and Italy at home.
Also ahead in August is the Bledisloe Cup, which Australia
has not been able to win back from the All Blacks since 2002.
"These first five games of our season, the three June
Tests and the two Bledisloe Cup matches, are going to be like an Everest for
us," Cheika said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Offsiders
"We've got to be fully prepared and we've got to enjoy
the challenge as well... and get stuck into it.
"I'm a strong and passionate believer in rugby in this
country. Yeah, there's some tough times on and off the field but it's what you
get from those and how you respond."
Cheika added that Australian rugby fans were looking to the
Wallabies to put things right on the field.
"We've got to play with a certain attitude that says
we're here for the fight," he said.
"The Australian team will be playing with no fear and
having been well prepared to go out there and have that positive mind-set."
While Cheika believed that Australia had "punched above
our weight so far... even to be where we are now - third in the world", he
wanted to set the team's sights even higher ahead of the 2019 World Cup in
"But maybe we've been satisfied at that level instead
of going to the next step. You got to start believing and dreaming that.
"For the next generation of players, that's the mind-set
we want to put in their head."
The Wallabies kick off their 2017 international campaign
against Fiji in Melbourne on Saturday, followed by Tests against Scotland in
Sydney on June 17 and Italy in Brisbane on June 24.