Fitness concerns rear their head for Wallabies again

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

If the Wallabies want to beat the All Blacks, Michael Cheika says fitness will be their first point of call.

Cheika has been vocal with his criticism of players’ fitness coming into the Test arena from Super Rugby teams, in a dismal season for Australia’s sides, and he repeated those concerns on Saturday night.

“We've been going hard at it over these three weeks and yes, there'll be the edge off the players on the field a little bit, I understand that,” he said.

“But to be at the level we need to be at to defeat New Zealand, (that’s what we need to do).

“I know that in everyone’s mind that everyone's having a laugh when I say that, but I believe that with that clear goal we can go up there and do that.

“We've got to work extra hard and we've got to be prepared to work even harder once we come out of Super Rugby for that little block to be ready, because at least the fitness base can let us be in the hunt.

“Then from there it'll be up to how good a footballers we are.”

The Wallabies' fitness is a concern for Michael Cheika. Photo: Getty ImagesThough it seemed the finger may have begun pointing at the domestic coaches, Cheika moved to defend them, saying it was a national responsibility to fix.

“Right now, this is my responsibility to get the team fit enough to be ready for that game,” he said.

“We started in these three weeks, we'll continue it over the next few weeks, while they're playing Super Rugby.

“When we get the opportunity, we'll get them in again, along with the skill work that we want to do, we'll roast the fire a little bit more on getting them up to the level we think is needed to be competitive form a fitness point of view.

“It's a key element to staying in the game - we’ve got to play for 80 and you've got to play hard for 80.”

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore said players could feel they weren’t fit enough when they came into the June camp, and though there is a natural gulf between the club competition and internationals, it shouldn’t be difficult to change.

“It shouldn't be hard for Super Rugby to produce players that are ready to play Test match footy, I don’t know what the issue is there but we need to make sure  the next two months or however long it is, we can't waste a day,” he said.

“There is a gap between Super Rugby and Test rugby - the intensity's up, but that doesn't mean we can't train like we have to to be able to play Test footy and that's probably the key over the next period of time is making sure.

“We measure everything now so we should be able to tell that stuff pretty easily.”

The Wallabies coach said they simply had to ‘stay at’ their hands-heavy style of play, though it relinquished another intercept try in Brisbane.

“At a certain point, we've just got to say with the pressure and the fatigue of the game, this is what happens, so it becomes automatic,” he said.

The Wallabies go back to their Super Rugby teams next week, for the final two regular season rounds before finals, with only the Brumbies involved.