Wallabies 'half a yard' behind in Sydney

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by Beth Newman

The Wallabies made technical errors on Saturday against Scotland, but were found out in the areas that don’t require a crisp pass or a pinpoint perfect kick.

Coach Michael Cheika said his side was ‘half a yard’ behind on most areas, more willing to let things happen to them than take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Those criticisms were not universal, lock Adam Coleman physical early on and Israel Folau showing some of his best finishing, but efforts were few and far between, as Scotland proved not only more desperate in defence but skilful to match.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper was one player who did try and make things happen, a situation that is not all too unfamiliar watching for those who have frequented Waratahs matches this season.

A break from Hooper late in the first half epitomised some of the issues Cheika was talking about, the Wallabies flanker running with little support and ultimately giving away a penalty waiting for his teammates.

Though he admitted the passage was frustrating, Hooper took the blame himself, ruing the penalty he ultimately conceded.

The captain’s frustration was plain to see by his obvious discomfort sitting through a 14-minute press conference alongside Cheika, even noted by the coach, as he discussed the need for an immediate response from his players.

“This week will be important for how we respond, how players respond to the challenge that will be put in front of them around the mindset they bring to the game that sets the pace of the game,” he said.

“I know it's hurting Michael listening to it, because I can feel it, him sitting here next to me.

“He's one of the few who are out there, leading that charge, but every player's got to bring that mindset to the game.

“It's not saying anything out of school, I spoke to the lads about it inside and they know.

“Otherwise, we wouldn't be sitting here with a loss.”

Ironically, it may have been Hooper’s unwavering support of his teammates that cost the Wallabies, who took kicks to the corner over kickable penalties that may have made a mathematical difference.

“I'm an ultimate believer in our guys doing the job and maybe too much so tonight,” he said.

“Hindsight maybe could've gone to the goal just to mount up a bit of pressure there, however I was feeling we were starting to get some really good pressure built on them, just the amount of time we were spending in their 22, even their 40.

“I was waiting on a try to happen.”

Cheika foreshadowed change for next weekend’s Italy clash in Brisbane, but dismissed the idea that changing up the team midway through what he sees as a five-game block that includes the first two Bledisloes, would set them back.

“I’d say there'll be a few,” he said.

“It's really about that one point (I made) at the start about being more urgent to the game, willing the game more - you've got to make it happen.

“It's not just going to happen for you. You've got to have guys with that attitude I suppose.”

Though his motivation messages clearly didn’t make it all the way through in Sydney, Cheika said he felt there was only one way to turn things around against Italy.

“If you just give up, you're not going to get,” he said.

“You eliminate all the excuses and you just stay at it.

“Stay at it, stay at it and make the team come there.”

Karmichael Hunt was the only injury concern for the Wallabies, coming off with concussion, but Cheika was confident the utility back would be fit for their Italy Test next weekend.