Rugby: Michael Cheika doesn't care if NZ are writing off Wallabies

By Iain Payten

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Michael Cheika doesn't really care if the Wallabies are written off for the Bledisloe Cup, or if commentators believe a poor 2016 season has sunk Australian rugby into a terrible state.

Cheika cares mostly about what his players believe, and that tough times won't make them lose sight of their capacity to beat anyone. Including the All Blacks.

"It is going to be a negative spin on us over the next few weeks, leading into the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup matches," Cheika said.

"It is going to be very important from our guys that they are really authentic about their self-belief and how they prepare for the games. I know what they can do.

"I have seen it. I have only been involved for a year and a bit, but I have seen what they can do in big matches, under pressure. I want them to do that and do it even better this year."

Even with Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper to return in August, the Wallabies will be heavy underdogs and Cheika appears content with the tag.

"It doesn't matter what you do, when you play New Zealand you are going to go in as the underdog," he said.

"And if you look over there they don't see us as much of a threat to be honest, if you look at the commentary over there, even from some of the players and the coaches of the teams.

"I can understand where they are coming from, but they didn't see us as much of a threat last year either. We snuck a game.

"Maybe we were lucky, I don't know. I know I back our lads. I believe in them implicitly."

The 2015 season left a warm glow but there can no hiding from the fact Australian rugby fortunes have darkened in 2016.

The Wallabies lost to England 3-0 in June, Australian Super Rugby teams have only won three from 24 games against the Kiwis and there will be one team in the finals courtesy of a guaranteed spot.

Last weekend all five Australian Super Rugby teams lost - mostly heavily.

The public response has been despondent but while acknowledging the results are not good, Cheika is attempting to keep a level view about Australian rugby.

"We have a tendency to do that over here, we go over the top when it goes good and we go over the top when it goes bad," he said.

"You can't just say it was a bad weekend, because at the end of the day the table tells a different story."

Dean Mumm has been criticised for this week saying Australian rugby is still in good nick but Cheika would have been pleased to see it. Developing "resilience" and maintaining belief as a group is a big priority for him as coach, Cheika said.

"It's hard here. We have to be perfect on the field, perfect off the field, playing good rugby, winning all games," he said.

"That is the way it is perceived here. So it is easy for the guys for their heads to get down, when they feel like they are letting people down.

"I believe we have a great bunch of guys, as players and as people. What I want to do with them is get them a little bit stronger in the mind, so they don't drop their heads if it does go against us. Maybe not drop our heads. Just to not lack belief in ourselves.

"It can be self-feeding sometimes if you are not believing in yourself. That's the one thing I want to be clear: no matter how the Australian Super teams perform, our big work-on is getting resilient in that space. It is only going to be more difficult with overseas clubs plundering players and all that kind of stuff, so its important we stay resilient."

On this year's form most believe the Bledisloe Cup will be scarily one-sided but Cheika said he wasn't concerned about a growing tide of criticism.

"No disrespect to the commentators but they are the same commentators that were waxing lyrical a few months ago," he said.

"They are just calling it as they see it and that's fine. There's no drama.

"But for the player, and everyone involved at that level, it is only about believing in yourself, preparing the best you possibly can and not going out fearing what could happen. Just go and play the best you can and see what happens. More often than not, good things will happen."

Some argue collective Super Rugby form doesn't carry into Test rugby but Cheika concedes it does.

"You can't say it is going to be all different," Cheika said. "But form is also a headspace ... how do I feel in my mind to be up for the challenge? We are obviously playing the best team in the world and we also know that no-one is going to give us much of a chance."

Cheika spent a few hours talking with Swans coach John Longmire, Souths coach Michael Maguire and Australian sevens coach Andy Friend at a function hosted by the Catapult sports tech company, who provide wearable technology and software for monitoring teams' high performance training data.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 May 2017 03:43:06 Processing Time: 426ms