Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Cheika's search shows Oz problems

It's rugby salvage work coach Michael Cheika has turned to in a bid to get the Wallabies in better shape. Photo / Greg Bowker
It's rugby salvage work coach Michael Cheika has turned to in a bid to get the Wallabies in better shape. Photo / Greg Bowker

Across the Ditch, they are big on recycling.

It's rugby salvage work coach Michael Cheika has turned to in a bid to have the Wallabies in better shape for the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

He feels he has no option after watching the Super Rugby series and comparing the work of his players against those who will represent the All Blacks, Springboks and Argentina.

The Wallabies got to the last World Cup final but that surge has not been repeated in Super Rugby. Six teams collected more points than the Brumbies who led the Australian conference.

The Force and Reds barely made a ripple while the Rebels and Waratahs bounced around in the middle of the expanded tournament. Some new faces like Dane Haylett-Petty give hope but he's a rare glow.

All Black coach Steve Hansen has been spoiled for choice even with the post-World Cup exits of some serious alumni.

Any doubters should look at those drafted in to help at the national training camp this week because the Hurricanes have work to do tonight, the Highlanders need a spell after their global travel and Sam Cane and Joe Moody are injured.

Kane Hames, Damian McKenzie, Seta Taminavalu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Steven Luatua, Melani Nanai and Matt Todd are the hired help.

Cheika would appreciate them all in his squad and other Kiwis like James Lowe or Jason Woodward who can't squeeze into the All Black setup.

Meanwhile, Cheika has dialled 0800-Europe to see if some of his old crew still call Australia home. All of them are backs which says something about the Wallaby issues. Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau and Will Genia bypassed the Super Rugby series but have scarpered back to Oz for the chance of more international work.

Like the Springboks but with stipulations, the Wallabies condone picking players from offshore. They have to because they do not have the player depth in Australia while the lure of the Wallaby jersey is not enough to keep players and the money offshore is significant.

The All Blacks have been able to mine and invest in a rich vein of younger talented backs while the Wallabies have gone back to the well to retrieve four men who started the 2015 World Cup final.

Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani and Israel Folau are the others who started that match and have stayed in Australia.

Hansen has made the expected noises about the calibre of the Wallabies, the advantages they've had for weeks in camp and the different intensity of test rugby. He didn't mention the different tempo of rugby in Europe compared to the Super Rugby rhythms and the lack of matchplay for the Aussies.

Or how England smothered the Wallabies in June, all issues which put the heat on the All Blacks to be in menacing touch in Sydney a fortnight for the resumption of transtasman rugby rivalry.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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