Wallabies planning for every Super Rugby scenario

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Whether Australia has five teams or four, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika expects the same form from any prospective Test players.

SANZAAR's executive, including ARU CEO Bill Pulver and deputy chairman Brett Robinson, is set to meet this Friday (AEDT) in London to vote on the proposals for Super Rugby’s format, but Cheika said he simply had to prepare for any situation.

While one of the arguments for the potential axing of an Australian team is that the country’s talent is currently spread too thin, Cheika said it wouldn’t change his Wallabies approach.

“Is the picture of rugby in our country going to be hugely different whether we have four teams or five teams? I don't know,” he said.

“For the Super Rugby teams it would be definitely (different), because there's going to be a concentration of players into those teams, it's going to be a massively different result for them.

“I can understand why they're trying to make changes to the competition, but it has no effect on how good any one Wallaby candidate needs to play.

“It doesn't affect anyone making a tackle or chasing a kick or jumping in a lineout, it doesn't affect any of those things.”

The Wallabies are turning their focus to the All Blacks. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika said he was loath to lean on a flawed format as an excuse for mediocre Test results, instead making plans for his side based on every possibility.

“There's no doubt that with the current structure, interest is being eroded,” he said.

“That doesn't mean, though, that we can't have a more interesting structure with five teams. We did before (with the Super 15).

“One thing that I can't start doing is saying, ‘I want this competition, I want this type of thing'.

“What I need to concentrate on is whatever competition is set up, whatever is out there that's running, that we still do our best to prepare the best possible players and the best possible team that runs out in the gold jersey every week.

“I haven't looked at it (Super Rugby change) like that, because then I'm looking for an excuse (by saying), ‘Oh, we could better, if our competition was set up better, or if this was going on’.

“I can't align myself to any side because I want to work the best outcome with whatever happens. That's how I have to do it.”

Whatever the outcome of this week’s SANZAAR meetings, Australian rugby still has some ground to make up on their Kiwi neighbours if the opening fortnight is anything to go boy.

The Rebels are the only Australian team to have played two New Zealand teams in 2017 and they conceded 127 points in the process.

The Brumbies are the only other team to have played a trans-Tasman rival, going down by four points to the Crusaders.

Cheika admitted a gulf was still existed between Australia and New Zealand in some areas, but is adamant a new training strategy and more collaboration between the Wallabies and franchises would begin to solve it.

“We've had a different focus on how we want to, not just (approach training for) the short-term results but also how we want to start coaching our players to play footy as a whole,” he said.

“We are trying to have good collaboration with the states as best we can so those principles, at least the ideas or the philosophies, are going down into there, so we can have some of that development going on.

“We're definitely behind on that (skills), there's no doubt about that, but we can catch up quickly once we all commit that this is the way we've got to go and also that we just stick at it.

“Just because we don't get a result in year one or in year two (doesn’t mean we should stop).

“If we don't start doing that now, the gap's only going to get bigger.”