Cheika not distracted by increasing heat on his future, says Hooper

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Walabies captain Michael Hooper says the team is playing for all Australians in the second Bledisloe Cup Test - not just Michael Cheika - after a week of escalating pressure on the head coach.

The Wallabies' first Test loss in Sydney saw Cheika's position come under scrutiny this week, culminating in a speculative report in The Australian newspaper on Friday suggesting Rugby Australia would give Cheika three more Tests to turn the tide or face questions about his future.

Cheika is contracted until the end of 2019.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle was on hand at the Australian captain's run on Friday but did not wish to comment on the report and Rugby Australia president Tony Shaw was taken by surprise when asked about the article.

In his captains' run press conference, Hooper said he had noticed no change in the drive of his coach.Michael Hooper can't wait for Bledisloe two. Photo: Walmsley"I think what we’ve seen in Cheik this week is the guy wants to win. He just wants to win," Hooper said.

"That’s what he’s shown this week - an absolute thirst to get this team to reach its potential.

"That’s what Cheik is about.

"You know, and that’s what he’s exuded this week."

There is no inkling of unrest about Cheika's position inside the Wallabies camp but when asked if his team would be playing for their coach's job on Saturday, Hooper insisted the Australian squad will be playing for the whole country.

"There’s a million people we could say we’re doing it for," Hooper said.

"We play for our country and that’s a huge amount of motivation.

"We want them to be proud of this team and that’s something we weren’t able to do at the back end of last week.Michael Cheika has come under fire this week. Photo: Walmsley"Family... (we) play for each other (as) teammates.

"There are a thousand things we play for."

If anyone was to notice a change in Cheika's body language it would be Hooper as the pair have been side-by-side at both the Waratahs and Wallabies since 2013.

Whether conversations about Cheika's future are being had within the Wallabies and Rugby Australia or not, the external pressure won't go away unless the Australians reverse the Sydney result at Eden Park.

For Hooper, the entire week has been spent thinking about how to do exactly that - to the point where he admitted he is not aware of the fact the last Bledisloe Cup win in Auckland was in 1986.

"We’re thinking about tomorrow night, as simple and cliché as it sounds we’re thinking about tomorrow night," he said.

"It has been on my mind all week, tomorrow night. And I can’t wait that we’re one day away.

"I wasn’t there in '82 - I wasn’t alive - or whenever, '84? '86, so that’s how much I’ve been paying attention to that stuff.The Wallabies are desperate to reverse the Sydney result on Saturday. Photo: Walmsley“I can’t wait for tomorrow."

Part of thinking about the challenge which awaits involves visualisation and the 26-year-old is relishing the thought of running out onto the Eden Park cauldron.

"We know it's going to be physical and we know there is going to be a lot of movement on the ball," he said.

"Myself, personally, I was exhausted at points last week and how good... I love that.

"I love playing these guys and I love playing here this week.

"It's going to be cold and there are going to be a lot of people.

"There won't be much gold in the crowd and without swearing... this is the stuff you play for.

"This is why - this is what you want to be here for - it's great."

The Wallabies face the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, 7:35pm local, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten, radio and Macquarie Sports radio.