When the thunder starts, you have to be ready for it, says Cheika

Wallabies coach warns his 'underdogs' to be on full alert for an England backlash on Saturday

Michael Cheika apparently did not have much of a sidestep when he was a straightforward, bruising number eight in his playing days but Australia’s coach has developed a pretty nifty one behind the coach’s microphone.

With the hype before the Wallabies' match with England on Saturday set to reach stratospheric levels, Cheika demonstrated on Tuesday a light diplomatic touch which enabled him to dance round the verbal hand grenades being chucked his way at a news conference.

Well aware that his side have the potential to shove the hosts out of their own party with victory at Twickenham, Cheika, who has become adept as a fashion business entrepreneur and man manager as well as a champion rugby coach, was evidently determined not to fan any more flames before Saturday.

His interrogators wanted to know his thoughts on everything from whether the tournament would be damaged if the hosts got knocked out in the group stages to whether his team would have kicked for touch instead of goal in the same position as England found themselves in last weekend against Wales.

Every time, Cheika (pictured above) offered the sort of dead bat that the Aussies’ old cricketing stonewaller Bill Lawry would have been proud of.  

Asked about the damage to RWC 2015 should England depart, he just shrugged: “Mate, that’s not my domain, sorry. I’m not a tournament organiser, I’m not involved with England. I’m just a simple old coach of the Australian team and I know what has impact on us and what doesn’t.

“I'm not trying to avoid the question, I just don't know. It's been a great tournament so far - 90,000 people at Ireland v Romania. It shows how popular rugby is over here in Europe and that's great for our sport. We had nearly 70,000 against Fiji and then 40,000 against Uruguay.”

As for the couple of questions he received about England captain Chris Robshaw’s decision not to shoot for goal in the dying minutes of the 28-25 defeat by Wales, he smiled but was not about to rise to the bait.

“I back whatever they (the players) decide. I know what you want to get out of the answer, but I don't really have an opinion. It has no effect on what we do,” he said.


Having lost Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton through injuries on Tuesday, Cheika was asked if he felt Australia were underdogs for Saturday’s game, despite being the current Rugby Championship kings of the southern hemisphere.

“I don't think it's important but you'd have to think so. We're playing in the opposition back yard,” he said. “When the thunder starts at Twickenham you have got to be ready for it. They have been very successful at that ground so we have to be ready to be ourselves and play the best we possibly can and let the cards fall where they do. 

“Every team has the ability to bounce back. That's the joy of rugby. You lose one week and come back out and play the next. We're more than aware of that because we've been in the same position, maybe not in a World Cup, but I'm sure they'll believe strongly that they can beat us. I suppose that's all that counts.”

Yet he sounds confident about the two new inclusions to the Australian squad, hooker James Hanson and lock Sam Carter, which he reckons demonstrates the Wallabies’ strength in depth.

“I think Australian rugby has probably not realised the players it has and the players it can draw upon to build quality. We have got guys like Carter, Hanson, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill who are sitting in Australia not involved in the tournament. We have got to make sure we get the maximum potential out of all the players in Australia and keep building that for the future.

“It is disappointing for some, but it’s an opportunity for others.”