With the return of genuine world class quality to the Australian squad in the form of Wallaby stalwarts Adam Ashley-Cooper, Will Genia, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, the cloud hanging over Australia’s prospects heading into the Bledisoe Cup series and the Rugby Championship suddenly seems a lot less forlorning.
What with the return of such talent one would do well to remember that the Wallaby squad, which justifiably lost to England in the 3-0 series whitewash, was considerably underpowered against an effectively full strength Eddie Jones squad.
This isn’t to take away from from England’s impressive feat as they have well and truly justified their status as the second best team in the world. But one can only be left to ponder as to what might have been had these four extremely proficient playmakers been present in the side, particularly in the the second test where Australia dominated the possession but lacked the flair and creativity needed to break down England’s iron curtain defence, making a staggering 182 tackles.
But what is done-is-done and with that historic series whitewash now scripted into the history books, Cheika’s attention must now focus on the challenge that lies ahead. A challenge which is arguably much more daunting.
To that end, Cheika’s preparations will put his side in good stead to retain their Rugby Championship crown with the incorporation of 252-caps worth of experience:
” The plan was always to bring the guys back, who I went around and saw in January – the ones who wanted to keep playing, and they all put their hand up to want to play,” Cheika said. “Some have come back earlier; Kepu and Horwill, and Kepu will get a bit of a break now, and then the other guys.
Asked whether it was realistic to throw returning players into the cauldron of an All Blacks Test straight up, Cheika said:
“Yeah, they’re playing footy. It’s just a matter of getting them back here and getting them fit, fit enough to play here in Test footy. It’s a matter of getting back here when you feel like it’s the right time and starting your fitness program.”
Cheika reiterated the team’s commitment to running rugby. “I want us to be able to play that type of footy – and we can do it because we’ve done it before – without as many errors. That means working harder, being fitter, being more accurate, getting guys to fulfil their potential more,” he said.
“As always I accept full consequences from that style of game. That’s how I’ve been brought up, when I came in to [the Wallabies job] they wanted the team to play like that, and that’s how I want to coach. I believe that we can keep working on it and be in the situation where we can get results and play like that.
“It hasn’t happened this time but we’ll keep working at it mate, because I know there’ll be plenty of people looking to put the boot in and I’m ready for that. But I’ll always get back up, as the team will, and play that style of footy. The people I feel for most is our supporters.”
(source via smh.com.au)