Wallabies believe in both sides of Bledisloe coin

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They’ve got a formidable look in attack, but Wallabies coach MIchael Cheika is adamant his side’s defence will be up to scratch against the All Blacks.

Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi add some X-Factor, while the inclusion of deebutant Curtis Rona on the wing with Henry Speight brings more finishing ability, but it’s the other side ofte h coin that has hurt the Wallabies in the past.

The Wallabies missed 38 tackles in last year’s Bledisloe opener, conceding 42 points in the process.

Since then, defence coach Nathan Grey has become a full-time Wallabies assistant and Cheika was adamant those issues had been sorted out.


“We've been working hard on that area,” he said.

“Last year, when I look at that game, I still believe that I over-trained them in the lead-up.

“I  think that, because I was stressed about their fitness, that's a mistake we haven't made this year.

“We've worked really hard on the D because we know it's got to be a very important part of the game because of how potent they are in attack and we'll take a few risks sometimes to get the outcome we want but I believe we're well-prepared in that area.”

The All Blacks reshuffled backline will test their defence, with Cheika acutely aware of the threat new fullback Damian McKenzie poses in his first start.

“I think we've seen in Super Rugby the threat Damian McKenzie poses - You leave him a metre either side to run and he'll kill you,” he said.

“I  think for us, considering our situation, all our focus has been on ourselves and getting our team travelling at the right speed and also prepared with everyone clear in their role to go out there and do the job on Saturday night.”

The British and Irish Lions showed a defensive blueprint that proved successful against he All Blacks, rushing out of the line and cruelling the All Blacks’ space.


While Cheika took note of that, he said they wouldn’t be cutting and pasting the Lions’ tactics, two months on from that series.

“You've got to look at what we've got, how our players play and what they can do and what they can't do and go to our strengths and play to that,” he said.

“I wouldn't be looking to copy what they did.

“Obviously, you watch the games like you do any and try to make some analysis out of it of what you might be able to pick up from there in the opponent but I wouldn't be looking to copy anything from them straight up.”

The final quarter of the game could prove crucial and the Wallabies have a bench with plenty of experience, in the likes of Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu and Rob Simmons, an element that hasn’t been so common in a year of transition.

Cheika has felt the full spectrum of Bledisloe results at ANZ Stadium and says the side certainly understands the gravity of the task ahead of them.

“2015 we were able to have a win and we felt the high and how important that was to the game and how good it felt and then in 2'16 we suffered the reverser result and felt the other end of that, of how important the game is,” he said.

“There's absolutely no doubt that it's a huge match, huge match for our fans and we'll certainly want to go out there and make them proud on Saturday night.”

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks on Saturday night, kicking off at 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, WIN and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.