'I think that’s the honest thing to say': Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has stuck by comments he made after Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup match, saying he was simply telling the truth.

Cheika, speaking to media on his return to Sydney on Sunday morning, said he was just answering questions he was asked about the New Zealand team.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen accusing the Wallabies coach of ‘hijacking’ the press conference on a milestone night for New Zealand, but Cheika wasn’t changing his tune the morning after.

“They asked me to make a comment about their achievement and I said I didn’t think they’d care about my comment which I think is the truth,” he said.

“I think that’s the honest thing to say.

“I could go on with all that politically correct stuff…I acknowledge that they’re far superior to all other teams at the moment, there’s not an issue there but I don’t think they’d want my comment there.

“I made that point, no one was hijacking anything.”

While it seems that relations are frostier than ever between the two nations, Cheika said he wasn’t worried about the All Blacks’ perceptions on him.

“I don’t think that it’s a popularity contest, our job’s to get better on the field,” he said.

“I’ve been disliked by plenty of people before, that’s not an issue.

“I think my role in principle is to make the team improve and play better, all the things we’re trying to do now.

“The other things are distractions but they’re there and if I’m asked about them I’m not going to not talk about them I’m going to say the truth. “

Cheika scoffed at Hansen’s suggestion he should take the high road over the New Zealand Herald’s pre-game front pages depicting him as a clown.

“Why? Why would you let the opposition call your team clowns and mock the jersey?,” he said.

“That’s how I feel about it. Maybe others don’t.

“I never had an Australian jersey so I think it’s something that should be treasured.

“We’re going there for a good contest.”

Steve Hansen wasted little time in getting involved in a media fray. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Wallabies mentor brought up the same link he made on Saturday night, pointing to the fact that the New Zealand Herald had broken the bugging story in August, about the discovery of a listening device in the All Blacks’ Sydney hotel.

“I don’t want to keep going over the same points. That’s their go to paper – the whole bug thing came out from there, which you know we had policemen in our offices asking our management questions about it,” he said.

“That’s serious stuff to be accusing people of and it’s not true.

“That’s their go to. Nothing happens without that connection so that’s my point of view. They don’t have to agree with it.”

The Wallabies and All Blacks players have a respectful on-field relationship. Photo: Getty ImagesHansen said on Sunday that maybe the two teams needed to patch things up, while the New Zealand Herald artist added a new twist to the sequence of events, admitting he's an Australian, telling the Herald his sister has dated Cheika's cousin.

"For a long time the relationship with Australia has probably been a little frosty and maybe we need to sit down and have a beer together and sort it out," Hansen told Australian reporters in New Zealand on Sunday.

"But I think some of it comes down to the fact that the Bledisloe Cup means so much to both teams and when one team's having a dominant period like we're at the moment, the other team really gets frustrated.

"It's how you deal with those frustrations and how you handle yourself when you're winning, I guess, is important.

"This week we've tried to play a pretty straight bat and not tried to aggravate anyone. Our media didn't help with the clown thing but that's the media. It's not us.

"But at the same time you've got to look at your own history and your own backyard and there's been plenty of people who've had a crack at (former All Blacks captain Richie) McCaw and so forth."

Hansen said he had empathy for Cheika.

"I lost 10 Tests in a row with Wales and it was tough. Of course you get hurt by it," he said.

"It's how you deal with the adversity that's important."

The Wallabies are ruing some missed chances. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore was fuming about the clown picture, Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley said he didn't feel there was any lack of respect on the field between the trans-Tasman foes.

"The players on the field, they’re competitors, they’re trying to do what they can do to win the game and play their game.

"For me personally I’ve got a pretty good relationship with these guys on field.

"We’re quite familiar with each other, we play against them so often at Super Rugby level and in Test matches that it’s always a good battle and it’s always whatever happens on the field, stays on the field.

"In that regard, I don’t think there’s much disrespect towards myself or on the field anyway."

The Wallabies are sweating on the availability of outside centre Samu Kerevi for the Spring Tour, with the 23-year-old sent for scans ahead of Monday’s squad announcement.

It’s better news for Rory Arnold, who has a minor cork in his leg and is expected to be fit for the European tour.