Australia's slump to seventh in the world rankings is clearly hurting the two-time World Cup champions.

Under-fire coach Michael Cheika has scoffed at a suggestion the Wallabies' upcoming match against Wales, who are in their 2019 World Cup pool, is the most important remaining assignment of the year.

According to Cheika it's the dead Bledisloe Cup game in Yokohoma late this month which counts most.

And during a lengthy interview on Fox Sports' Kick and Chase, Cheika explained the tactical thinking behind why he is likely to stick with star fullback Israel Folau on the wing.


After playing the All Blacks in Japan, Australia take on Wales, Italy and England.

When asked if World Cup opponents Wales were the priority, Cheika said: "Everyone wants us to get back up the ladder. We play three teams ahead of us on points, and it's a great opportunity to climb back up the ladder.

"Let's forget everything except game one against the number one, when you can accumulate the most points to get back up there. Let's focus on that."

This is the challenge which still counts most to the Wallabies as they try to rise from a ranking of seventh. Photo / Photosport
This is the challenge which still counts most to the Wallabies as they try to rise from a ranking of seventh. Photo / Photosport

Folau was switched to the wing by the Waratahs during the season, leading to a controversial tweet from his wife Maria Folau — the New Zealand netball shooter — who questioned the move.

But Cheika followed suit against Argentina when Folau returned from injury, using Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback.

But Cheika appears to believe that he can get Folau even more involved in the game by starting him as awing.

"You can see his versatility...he moves from position to position even within a game.

"He is not really playing on the wing, a bit of fullback, moving into the centre. He's getting a lot of touches, a lot of impact, and he's still second to none under the high ball in the world.


"You need one of your top players getting the ball (frequently).

"Dane Haylett-Petty has taken the opportunity and is combining quite well with Israel as a back two, with Marika (wing Marika Koroibete) more up front.

"Dane has brought a different level to his game, and they are sharing the roll at fullback."

Cheika is hoping that the brilliant second-half revival which saw the Wallabies score an unlikely comeback win over the Pumas has created anew momentum.

Cheika said his now famous halftime speech did not contain any technical information.

He hoped the terrific second-half showing had got a young Wallabies side over a confidence hump.

"Maybe people saw (second half) tries but I saw body height, leg drive in mauls, in the first half we were just getting in and holding.

"There was leg drive in tackles, pushing guys back over rucks, the defence really strong with charge downs, looking for every little bit."