No silver linings for Wallabies in Bledisloe opener: Cheika

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There were no rose-coloured glasses for Michael Cheika after his side’s record home loss at the hands of New Zealand.

The 42-8 Bledisloe Test loss put more than a dent in the Wallabies’ hopes of snatching back the Bledisloe Cup and Cheika wasn’t trying to paint it any other way.

“That would be a lie of me if I tried to find one [a positive],” he said.

“I thought that Will Genia played well in his first game back and David Pocock was outstanding as well in his efforts and some players did that but no I don't think [there were any positives],” he said.

Will Genia made it through the full 80 minutes. Photo: Getty Images“We've got to look forward now, straight away to the next one, that's the only chance we've got.”

Australia’s defence was Cheika’s greatest concern, with the side making 113 tackles but missing 31 and letting the All Blacks get away 16 offloads to just three of their own.

While many of the Wallabies were playing their first matches in nearly a month, after Australia’s early exits from the Super Rugby competition, Cheika laid to bed any talk of rust.

“Defence is attitude so there's no rustiness,” he said.

“Let's get that one out of the way straight away, right.

“There's no rustiness. When players run at you, you've got to tackle and that's the nature of the game. So when other things don't work out, that'll look after you.”

The All Blacks forwards showed their skills on Saturday night. Photo: Getty ImagesThe defensive performance is extra stinging for Cheika’s Wallabies, who built a dream World Cup run on doing whatever it took and imposing themselves physically on the contest.

Cheika said he took responsibility for their psychological failings.

“The mental preparation, that's my domain, and I've got to make sure that the players are switched on to what is in focus,” he said.

“That's why you would see me being very down because I feel like I've let them down because I haven't put them into the space where they're going to do whatever it takes in that form, especially around defence,” he said.

“It's all connected. I'll have a good look at how I prepared that over the last few weeks and try and add or put some focus on what I need to make sure that the point is very clear for next weekend.”

The Wallabies need to be 'honest'. Photo: Getty ImagesWallabies captain Stephen Moore said the side would need to be ‘honest’ in their dissection of the defeat.

“We'll have to look hard at that performance,” he said.

“I think that it'll be clear when we look at the game (what went wrong) and we need to be honest about that and like Cheik said we've got six days now to make a change and make a difference to how we played tonight."

The Wallabies now have a week to turn around their fortunes in Wellington and break a 15-year losing streak across the Tasman, an effort that Cheika said would be one of the team’s greatest Test.

“They'll have a chance to work on it in seven days. There'll be no bigger test of mental fortitiude than that,” he said.

The Wallabies will be sweating over injuries to their three inside centre options - Matt Giteau (ankle), Rob Horne (shoulder) and Matt Toomua (concussion).

All three were on the pine before half-time, leaving the Wallabies scrambling to reshuffle their attack, and Giteau was on crutches after the game.