Bledisloe battle between the ears

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The battle of the physical is an obvious one in the Bledisloe but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says it’s the psychological combat that will be the most difficult for his side.

“Something we really want to build in our team is mental toughness,” he said.

“We didn't have that in the past and we've been working hard on it over the last 12-15 months, 18 months now I suppose and we want to continue to build that, so it's something that when a new player comes into the squad he really feels.”

Michael Cheika says the Wallabies need to harden up mentally. Photo: ARU Media.Stu WalmsleyCheika said the hole the Wallabies found themselves in now presented them with a choice.

“We came off June, which wasn't what we wanted it to be around the results and you can, like my counterpart over there tried to put us in and say we've got problems, you can wallow in that stuff or you can see what you need to improve and fight and get back up there,” he said.

“When we first went away (last year) we struggled a bit getting together and then we started to improve that toughness - we had a few setbacks during last year's Rugby Championship - went on a bit of a run, had another setback in the final, had a setback, come back again.

“As you do that more and more and more you start to build up more resilience, more mental toughness and then you can start to counteract that in a game itself more regularly.”

Their opponents have never lacked the steel between the ears, snatching crucial Bledisloe draws and wins in the dying seconds of matches, and it’s something Cheika wants to replicate.

“We want to do that now for ourselves do that we can breed it into the future and what they've been able to do is do that and breed it into their future as well,” he said.

“I don't want to talk about their team because I don't want to have any backlash you know but I think they've really bred that into their team,

“So, every player that comes out, you see it in the attitude, you can see it in their eyes.

“They've learned that from those experienced campaigners that they've had in the past.

“So, they've done it very well and that's why they're in the position that they're in and we'll be doing our best to challenge that on Saturday.”

The All Blacks’ Bledisloe buzzword has been “attitude” and outside back Israel Dagg spoke about that again on Tuesday,

“We've just got to bring the attitude, because we know Australia are going to be chomping at the bit, guns blazing so if we don’t match it we're going to come second,” he said.

“Kieran Read he's a great leader and I've got a`lot of respect and he's leading the way with it.

“I think it's the whole 23, we've just got to bring the attitude and the guys off the bench that come on and add, they've just got to keep bringing the attitude because we'll need it for the full 80.”