By Patrick McKendry in Perth
The Michael Cheika "Mickey Mouse" story is back and has provided an extra frisson to the Bledisloe Cup test in Perth on Saturday, the Wallabies coach appearing upset at being reminded of an incident early this year involving coaching rival Steve Hansen.
In February, Hansen was asked at a function in New Zealand about his thoughts as to former Wallaby Mark Ella's assertion even Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks such was the talent running through the team. Hansen quipped that it couldn't happen because he was already coaching Australia.
Asked about the line today, Cheika appeared determined to play a straight bat but in the end couldn't resist a dig of his own. Hansen, meanwhile, also attempted to pour cold water on the story and had a little more success.
"No drama for me," Cheika said. "There are certain things in footy … respect is an important thing in footy because it's the nature of the game – you go out there and rip into each other and you socialise afterwards straight away.
"I suppose there's two ways of looking at it – there's that way and then there's the other thing that goes on behind the scenes when New Zealand asked us to commemorate Sir Brian Lochore at the match and sent me an email about it.
"The first thing I did without hesitation was say yes – an icon of the game and at an occasion like this [he] should be commemorated with a moment's silence before the match. That's the way I'd like to think the way footy goes but that's my style. I don't know what other people's styles are you'd have to ask them about that."
On Saturday, the All Blacks will acknowledge Lochore, a former All Blacks legend whose life was celebrated at a funeral in Masterton today, by wearing his playing number – 637 – on their jerseys at Optus Stadium.
"I never said he was Mickey Mouse," Hansen said. "What I said was a throwaway line or something said in jest after an interviewer said to me 'Mark Ella said Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks because they've got so much talent' and I just said 'well he can't because he's in Australia coaching Australia'.
"You can make a big thing out of it if you want or you can take it for what it was; something in jest. I've got plenty of respect for what Michael has done – end of the story, really."
Cheika has long felt that the All Blacks don't give him or his side the respect they deserve, and while he kept his temper – something he didn't do when questioned by the media after the loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park last year – his reply was not without a subtle barb of its own.
He could have kicked the question into the metaphorical long grass, but in the end couldn't resist attempting to take the moral high ground by mentioning the Lochore arrangement and that is something that is unlikely to go down well with the All Blacks.
First shots fired, now for the real thing between two teams struggling a little for form so far in this World Cup year.