Bring on the 'Killer Bs' says coach Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Michael Cheika is leaving it up to his players to prove to France that a team with 11 changes is no Wallabies 'lite'.

Without players including Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper - three of the mainstays of 2016 - the Wallabies have a very different look for the Test against France in Paris.

Despite missing those stars, six of the team’s starters featured in the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand last season, with 11 across the matchday 23 part of that match just over a year ago.

French media has labelled the lineup ‘equipe biz’, effectively meaning a B team, a phrase that Cheika translated to his players ahead of the Test, looking for a strong response against France.

“I explained to them that the response to our selection was that we were playing with ‘equipe bis’,” Cheika said.

“We’ll see tomorrow night (how they react). “They didn’t say anything, I told them what it meant, I left it with them.”

“They didn’t say anything, I told them what it meant, I left it with them.” - Michael Cheika

The Wallabies give up a combined 13cm to their French counterparts in the backrow, with Charles Ollivon (199cm), Kevin Gourdon (190cm) and Louis Picamoles 192cm against Scott Fardy (198cm), David Pocock (184cm) and Sean McMahon (186cm).

It’s not an unusual problem for Australia to face, generally keeping their backrow shorter and more mobile in a bid to get the edge at the breakdown.

Cheika said the Wallabies needed to make the most of their advantage in tight and stay switched on from the first moment.

“We’re probably not as tall in that area so we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a good ground game, our game on the ground is solid,” he said.

“Staying on our feet (in contact), using our legs, just being really solid in that area and defensively we’ve got to be better than we were last week.

“Against Scotland, I don’t think we were focused enough on our defence early in the match and we let in a couple of soft tries, instead of being  a lot more rigorous at the tackle contest.”

Cheika suggested earlier this week that the changes could create an element of surprise, but skipper Pocock said they wouldn’t be leaning too much on that against a side that smashed Samoa 52-8 last weekend.

“I'm not sure if it's an advantage. They looked very good against Samoa. I thought in attack and defence they were exceptional. We're expecting a very tough game," Pocock argued.

The Wallabies have not won at Stade de France since 2010, a 59-6 shellacking of the home team, with 33-6 and 29-26 defeats coming in Paris in 2012 and 2014.

Australia vs France will be screened LIVE on SBS and Foxtel’s beIn Sports 3 (channel 515) kicking off at 7am Sunday AEDT.