Cheika says honesty is the best selection policy

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says honesty will be key for his team, with their opening World Cup side to be announced on Monday evening (AEST).

It’s been more than a month since many of the Australian squad last played a Test - in their August 15 Bledisloe loss at Eden Park - and only five players started every match in that tournament (Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Scott Fardy and Stephen Moore).

The only forced absence will be that of number eight Wycliff Palu (hamstring) who was ruled out of the first match by Cheika last week.

With Kane Douglas (back), Rob Horne (calf), Will Genia (knee) and Rob Simmons (hand) all overcoming injury concerns to play against the USA a fortnight ago, the competition for spots has been intense across the board throughout the Wallabies’ brutal training sessions.

In selecting the side to face Fiji, Cheika said his goal was to be honest with players who are in or out.

“What I don’t believe in is making stuff up just to talk to a player,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s like ‘mate, this my gut feel’ or 'this is way I'm going to do it'.

“At this level a player not getting picked doesn’t mean he’s not travelling well.

“It’s just competitive so if I’m honest all the time then I know I will get good payback from that.”

During his time in the top job, Cheika has developed a reputation for the strong rapport he has built with the players, participating in training and conditioning sessions.

Asked whether he considered himself a "players' coach", he said the relationship was a two way street.

“It’s not prison camp, we’re all adults,” he said.

“We can have a discussion about valuing the input of players.

“That’s the way I’ve done it, it’s the way I was coached as a player.

“I feel that is the normal way: to get the best out of players but also still have the respect that they will take the advice and use what they need from it.”

While Cheika has previously indicated the Wallabies will field entirely different starting sides for their opening two matches, there won’t be any drastic differences in their approaches to matches regardless of who they’re playing.

“I don’t have any expectations. They only lead to regret, more often than not. I just want to see the team fulfil its potential, each individual player playing to his potential on the given day that we’re preparing for."

"For us, the cycle we’re in, I think we’re introverted at the moment. Maybe if I was three or four years in, it might be a little different,” h e said.

“But it’s more about perfecting that so it works under the pressure of the moment in the big arena.

“And that will happen by doing things consistently in games. And we’re slowly getting that.

“In the Rugby Championship we were able to get a bit of consistency. We’ll look now to push that to another level."

Australia opens its World Cup campaign against Fiji at Millennium Stadium on Thursday at 1:45am AEST.