Cheika's mandate simple as first Test looms

by Sam Phillips

With two years of post World Cup regeneration in the rear-view mirror, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has just one mandate for his side as they prepare to face Ireland - go out there and win.

Cheika doesn't mince his words and when asked what he would classify a pass mark for his side through the three Test June series, his answer was frank.

"This is Test footy - you have to win every game," Cheika said.

"Over the last few years we have done a lot of development - we have had 26, 27 debutants - half of our senior group of 20 core players, 10 of them have debuted since '16, '17.

"We've done this on purpose and we have taken some risks in that way because you know you're always playing against great opposition.

"England, Ireland, New Zealand, it's on every week.Michael Cheika is demanding success from his squad. Photo: Walmsley"Now, we can start narrowing in on what our group is, getting them the games, you'll see this year there will be significantly less debutants.

"There will still be a couple pushing through and next year there might be a couple but only a couple, realistically.

"And get more experience, lift the cap level up, lift the age level up, but at the same time every time we run out in a gold jersey we are representing Australia.

"The country is waking up the next day, feeling how we performed - my own kids included - and that demands maximum performance.

"With that, I believe we can win."

Cheika has named a near full strength XV, with Jack Dempsey and Tatafu Polota-Nau the only likely starters unavailable for selection.

That's a stark contrast to the starting XV named by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt on Thursday afternoon, with six of the players that started in their Six Nations triumph against England either on the bench or unavailable through injury.Johnny Sexton has been left out of the starting XV. Photo: AFPHaving coached Johnny Sexton during his time at Leinster, Cheika did not envy the conversation Schmidt was forced to have with his star flyhalf.

"Maybe they want to give him one rest, maybe that was the deal," Cheika said.

"To have one rest and to play a couple but you'd be a brave man telling Sexton he's not playing - I'll tell you right now - I wouldn't want to be telling him.

"I had to tell him for a few years and he almost ripped my head off every time.

"The other lad (Joey Carbery) is a fine player.

"I've seen him play a lot on telly and live and he's got a real skill set.

"To be honest I don't think Johnny would be keen to give him a chance to play either."

Cheika also declared this Ireland team the best in their history, given their consistency in claiming 12 straight wins.Taniela Tupou will make his mark off the bench. Photo: Walmsley"They've got a lot of self belief and they believe they're coming down here to win 3-0 - no doubt about it from what I have read and seen," he said.

"We're looking to become a great team together and show the opposition what we've got as well."

Showing the opposition what the Wallabies have will include unleashing Taniela Tupou from the bench, with Sekope Kepu earning the nod to start at tighthead prop.

"That was always a bit of a plan for (Tupou) - it's still early days in Test footy for him," Cheika said.

"He's only had the one Test and if you remember his one Test - it was a mixed entree.

"It's not like that was a great game for us by any stretch of the imagination with a man down but he's had a great year with the Reds.

"He's been very consistent - you can see he has changed his preparation and Brad Thorn has done a great job with those young lads at Queensland around their preparation.

"They've got good preparation, a good head about them and they're getting ready for the game with a real mission in mind."

Tupou forms part of the next generation of Wallabies, a class which Cheika is leaning on to capture the next generation of Australians as lifelong rugby fans.

"I can see a good, young generation coming through here in Australia," he said.

"We want to make the Wallabies what they think about when they think about rugby in Australia, not some of the other stuff that's going on."

The Wallabies face Ireland in the first of three Tests on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and radio. Buy tickets here.