Jones and Cheika cut from same cloth

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Former Brumbies and Wallabies player Owen Finegan will be watching the June Test series with interest on and off the field.

Finegan has played rugby with both Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones, coached by the latter at both Super Rugby and Test level.

His relationship with Jones hasn’t always been strong, after Finegan was dropped for the 2003 World Cup, via phone as he travelled home from training.

“I was obviously disappointed in 2003 not to make the World Cup. To get the phone call was a bit difficult to get hold of,” he said.

“It was one of those things as a rugby player that you try to bounce back from your adversity.

‘I remember the first game of 2004, we played the crusaders and I scored a hat trick.

“I had points to prove for myself individually but also with the disappointment of the world cup and what you want from your coaches is honesty and a bit of honest feedback so that’s something I probably lacked from that 2003 World Cup and not making it.

“A lot of water under the bridge since then and it’ll be interesting to see how Eddie transfers this English team that was successful in the six nations over here in Australia and historically Test matches they haven’t been very competitive in.”

Finegan turned pain into a Super Rugby title in 2004. Photo: Getty ImagesFinegan said he saw great similarities between Cheika and Jones, who will go toe-to-toe behind the mics and behind the clipboards in June.

“They’re both people that get what they want and they know that they want to be successful so their passion comes boiling over sometimes,” he said.

“They both played at Randwick, both got similar philosophies on the game, they’re both ex-forwards who like to see physicality and aggression and are uncompromising in both their own work ethic and what they expect from the team and the players playing for them.”

Finegan said an element of brutality was necessary for coaches, though he might not have appreciated his brush with that.

“I think that’s the way they’ve played the game themselves uncompromising players on the field,”: he said.

“Neither of them give an inch and that’s they’ve played in teams that have that philosophy and they’ve brought it into their style.

“They’re blokes that, probably a little bit like myself ,aren’t overly gifted athletically but they’ve made up for that with passion physicality and aggressive nature and they see that as a real way of imposing that in their style of rugby now both of them.”

The on-field battle is where Cheika wants the rivalry to play out, rather than a tit-for-tat fight between he and Eddie Jones

Already his English counterpart, and former club teammate, Eddie Jones has been throwing barbs to Australian Rugby with the series coming up.

In contrast, Cheika has stayed relatively quiet, with the Wallabies out of action since last year’s Rugby World Cup, though you’d suspect he has a few nuggets up his sleeve.

The Wallabies mentor said he was happy to let the “actors” on the field do the talking for him.

“Everyone can have a bit of a laugh about those things but at the end of the day the game is played on the field,” he said.

“Eddy knows that just as much as anybody else. There’ll be a bit of fun for sure and no doubt everything that’s done there’ll be a bit of fun in it but at the end of the day once we go on the field it’s going to be full on.

“They're the guys ,the actors on the field that are going to decide how aggressively the game’s played. How attacking or how skilful or how fast, they’re the ones that will decide what happens, not in the press conference."