Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Cheika laughs at Hansen's correct prediction

Michael Cheika has today laughed off the manner in which his counterpart Steve Hansen correctly predicted his backline for tomorrow's test at Eden Park, joking that the All Blacks coach might have bugged the Wallabies' hotel or watched their training this week.

Cheika only named his team this morning, and as Hansen predicted yesterday, has selected Bernard Foley at No10 and Reece Hodge outside him at second-five. There is no room in the starting line-up for Quade Cooper, as Hansen tipped.

The Wallabies coach, who arrived with his team in Auckland ahead of tomorrow's crunch test only late last night, made a pointed reference to "spy-gate" with his response to Hansen's comments. The Wallabies have been staying this week at the same hotel - the Intercontinental at Sydney's Double Bay - where the All Blacks discovered a listening device in August, which set off a firestorm of speculation as to who planted it.

The police investigation is continuing.

"Really?" Cheika said following the Wallabies' captain's run at Eden Park when informed of Hansen's prediction. "Well, the bug's obviously not working any more so he must have had someone there watching it [training]. I don't know, he must have known somehow.

"The bug's gone. We stayed at Double Bay and did a bit of a broom around and couldn't find any."

Cheika, who insisted the delay in naming his team was due to recent injuries, added: "It's a pretty standard thing for me to look at that combination now [Foley and Hodge]. I've wanted to for a bit but I've thought that other combination was working well."

Hansen's first salvo in the mind games department this week is unlikely to have gone down well with Cheika, who must be irked at how the news of his selections leaked.

However, Cheika, who has presided over two Wallabies defeats to the All Blacks this year and is returning to a ground where Australia have not won in 30 years, said he was excited, rather than worried, about the contest.

There is a world record on the line for the All Blacks - another win will take them to 18 test victories in a row. The Wallabies, meanwhile, face one of their own. A defeat will mean they have been swept by two nations in two series in the same year for the first time. Earlier this year England beat themthree-nil in a series in Australia.

"Every test match is such a big occasion, no matter who it's against," he said. "If we start thinking about all those things, and start to think what's not possible then we'll only come up with a negative answer. Yes, you'd be blind not to say we haven't done well here for a fair while, but if you don't have the dream or conception inside that you can go out there and do it then it's never going to happen.

"So you come over here with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and belief in the team, in my players, that they can do the things that can create the contest and once we're in the contest - strong - lead us to a win at the end of the game.

"For me personally, I love going into the lion's den. It's fun, that's what rugby is about, going into the tough contests, getting stuck into it... and then as we always say, we'll see where the cards fall after that. No trepidation, more excitement."

Cheika said he wouldn't bother meeting with referee Nigel Owens, whom he has complained about previously, before the test. Cheika was animated in his anger about the All Blacks meeting touch judge Jaco Peyper (at Peyper's request) before the most recent defeat in Wellington in August, but said there was little point in meeting Owens, whom he admitted was the No1 ref in the world.

That Wellington test, won 29-9 by the All Blacks, was also notable for the niggle dished out by the Wallabies, but skipper Stephen Moore said it was important good decisions were made at Eden Park.

"We've spoken about that," Moore said. "We want to play the game our way and our style. The physical part of the game is always so important here. Tomorrow will be the same... you need to be smart about how you play that."

- NZ Herald

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