Wallabies' work ethic driving force in win: Cheika

by Sam Phillips

While the Wallabies were "far from perfect" - as coach Michael Cheika put it - in their 18-9 win over Ireland, there was far more good than bad considering it was the first Test of the year.

The Wallabies put a strong emphasis on outworking the Irish and on Saturday night, the Australian pack led that charge.

David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Adam Coleman were superb and Cheika highlighted his side's work ethic and discipline as underrated elements in the season opening win.

"Obviously we were far from perfect - I think that was pretty clear," Cheika said.

"But I suppose we spoke in the lead up about work ethic and we think Ireland are probably where they are because they are such a hardworking team and if we were to compete with them, we needed a work ethic which was at least the same - if not better - just to have a foothold in the game.Michael Cheika was pleased after his side's season opening win. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"It proved to be a slog-fest around one team going and another team going and I was really proud of our effort around work ethic.

"We tried to reduce our penalties as well and we can be better on that but I thought the effort was there.

"Not many offside - I think only one offside penalty - we are trying to reduce those and I just liked the character that we showed in that game because it certainly didn't go our way a lot of the time."

Pocock's masterclass was a resounding return to Test rugby and Cheika was pleased with the way his back row worked as a unit in their first Test together.

"David doing one job, Michael doing another and Caleb in doing what he did, kept pressure on the opposition, especially defensively," Cheika said.

"That's the first time they've played together in that formation.

"I think the best back rows work well together.

"Poey's work rate was off the chart, that's what he's renowned for."

The back row starred but the Wallabies also won the battle in the air, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale exiting their 22 by putting up cross field high balls for Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty.

It was a tactic which produced a few wayward kicks but when Folau and Haylett-Petty got near the contest, they came down with the football.

"(It's) probably three quarters of the way there," Cheika said.

"There are different ways you can use Israel and Dane, also.

"This was something that we decided to do in this game and we will have to decide during this game if we keep going with that strategy or if we try something different.Israel Folau soared above his Irish opponents. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"I thought Israel was excellent in the air and so was Dane Haylett-Petty.

"Both receiving kicks and getting clattered from totally fair contests - just getting clattered because the Irish lads were going up to compete as well.

"There were some real contests going on out there and it will be really interesting to see how it pans out.

"It's not my normal way of playing footy, I like to usually play with a few more passes and running - but we tried something a little different today."

As attention now turns to the second Test in Melbourne, Cheika expects a rejigged Irish side to breathe fire as they seek to level the series up.

"We know that it's gonna get harder," Cheika said.

"They're getting over arrival, jet lag, they mixed a few of the players, they didn't start Johnny (Sexton), didn't start Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, they're gonna change their look against next week and we need to change our look as well."