Michael Cheika has retaliated at comments made by New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen in which he remarked that Cheika has been ‘bullied’ by Eddie Jones in the media following the Wallabies second successive, and subsequent series loss to England.
Last weekends loss has meant that England have claimed their first ever test series victory Down Under, following which Hansen decided to make a slight jibe at the Wallabies head coach claiming that his refusal to engage with Jones in the media gave the England head coach the mental upper-hand, the connotations of which ran over onto the pitch:
“Cheika’s not come back, he’s letting Eddie have a free rein – to the point where it actually seems like he’s letting Eddie bully him in the media. I don’t know if that’s because they know each other that well, or if there’s a pecking order from the old days. That’s gone on to the park, hasn’t it?”
Cheika was unimpressed by Hansen’s remarks and felt that it was indicative of the content of a kiwi’s character to kick an Aussie while he is down. While he refused to take on the verbal bate set by Jones in the press, Cheika was not ready to let Hansen’s sly jibe slide:
“I’d be pretty nonplussed about that,” Cheika said. “That’s a really shallow sort of view I suppose on what’s really involved in coaching and he knows better than that.
“It’s easy to kick blokes when they are down, so we are down, but we’ll be getting back up, don’t worry about that. I think that’s a place where sometimes a lot of people like to see us, especially in rugby. Australia is down, we’ve been down before and we’ve got back up and we will be doing the same again right now.”
Cheika is now under strenuous pressure has he stares down the abyss at what would be cataclysmic failure in the form of a series whitewash defeat at the hands of his former club mate. Such a result would put his side in poor stead to say the very least as he looks to retain the Rugby Championship title later in the summer.
When asked if Hansen’s aforementioned remarks would be remembered down the line Cheika stated:
“That’s certainly not what motivates me, what someone says in the newspaper, I’m being genuine there. You can only write what the man says so I think it’s just an opportunity to take a potshot. In the past Australia has been guilty of talking itself up a bit too much when it hasn’t deserved it and one thing this team has is a lot of humility even when you win and when you lose. I think we showed that in the games we’ve won and we’ll show it again in the games that we’ve lost.”
Someone who is certainly savouring this little spout in the media is ‘pot-stirrer’ Eddie Jones. Having bested Cheika both on and off the field, Jones will now be looking to only add to his misery by finishing the series 3-0, and with Cheika being somewhat visibly flustered how could he not but help himself by having a comment or two to say on the ‘shallow’ remarks:
“He’s only being mischievous, he’s trying to help himself for the Rugby Championship,” Jones said in the defence of Hansen.