Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says criticism from former players is hard to take, but it comes with the territory, after comments from former Test player Clyde Rathbone about his side’s mentality.
Rathbone penned a column for rugby.com.au, suggesting the Wallabies lured themselves into a winning mentality, rather than having what he believes is a more realistic mindset heading into the Bledisloe.
“From Muhammad Ali to Conor McGregor absolute self-confidence appears a prerequisite to every great sporting achievement,” he wrote.
“But for every Ali and McGregor there are countless athletes for whom blind faith in one’s ability is a slippery slope to delusion.”
The former Wallabies back said Australia seemed to play a mental trick on themselves ahead of Bledisloe matches, one that was utterly shattered last Saturday.
“Perhaps it’s because we play the same old trick on ourselves each year,” he wrote
“Some part of our mind pushes the cold hard facts aside and commits itself to belief. Belief not that we can win, but that we will.”
Rathbone is certainly not the only ex-Wallaby who has criticised the Australian team in recent months, with Glen Ella also writing a column dissecting issues with the Wallabies’ skill base after the England series, while a number of high-profile media commentators have also been critical of the team.
At the Wallabies’ captain’s run on Friday, Cheika said some of the negative commentary did ‘hurt’, however it was not reflective of behind the scenes support the Wallabies had received.
“That obviously hurts us, doesn't it,” he said.
“In Australia there's a bit of that - reporters and ex-players.
“But then there's a lot of ex-players that contact you not in the newspaper, real, and say we understand that's painful, not trying to make it softer, but they're Australian and they'll support Australia no matter what.
“When it gets tough, it's very easy for people to jump on and put the boot in and we'll take it, we have to take it because we haven't performed and that's what happens.
“But when it gets tough, that's the time you show your colours.
"I know where my colours are, and if he's not happy about it, that's his choice. He can write about it, he can do whatever he wants. At the end of the day, no matter what sport Australia's playing at, I'll be supporting them no matter what.
“I was certainly supporting Greg Chappell when he got six or seven ducks in a row, back in the day in the West Indies and the pressure was on, because he's a great Australian player, and that's what I know what I'd be doing if I was sitting on the other side, but that's his choice."
Earlier in the week, he said that criticism of the Wallabies opening Test was warranted and while he stopped short of describing them as unfair on Friday, he suggested it was criticism for criticism’s sake.
“I wouldn't do it, but I don't think it's unfair,” he said.
“It's an individual's approach to what he wants.
“There's some people who have got that thing, like maybe they'll never feel like it's as good as when they were playing so they always want to be into it.
“Then there's others that just want to support the team, no matter what.
"That's what it is. I wouldn't be upset about it or blowing up about it.
“If he wants to write that, that's up to him.”
Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore said Rathbone’s comments wouldn’t be any extra motivation for his side on Saturday night.
“I haven't seen it so all I care about is my teammates, my coaches and what we're doing internally,” he said.