Win adds credibility to Cheika's plan, eases pressure

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies pulled off the biggest Tier One comeback in rugby history on Sunday morning (AEDT) but that might almost be the least significant mark from the game.

This was a win the Wallabies needed more than any in recent years, as speculation increased with each loss that something needed to change within the team setup and pressure intensified on Michael Cheika and his assistants.

That they won may just have cooled down that talk and gone a way into reinforcing faith in these Wallabies and their backroom staff.

There still is the potential for change, with reports of bringing in an advisor in the form of John Eales or George Gregan not totally going away, but it seems unlikely there will be any kind of cleanout now with the World Cup less than a year away.

Asked whether he felt the win reiterated the need to keep the setup the same, Cheika dismissed the notion it was even being considered by Rugby Australia.

“I don't know who's saying that stuff about changing people,” he said.

“Like I've said many times, these are tough times. They come and go and you've got to be a tough person to get through it.

“That's what will survive and I've said it a few times so you're probably bored of me saying it but it's the truth.

“We've got stuff we've got to improve, everyone does - coaches, staff, players, everyone.

“That's what we're here to do, is to get better and go forward and get to the goal that we share together as a team, and that's to lift the World Cup.

“That's what we're going towards - not trying to put off.

“It's much easier to say that after you have a win, not everyone likes to hear that after a loss, but it's what I truly believe.”

Fullback Dane Haylett-Petty played down the result’s impact on Cheika’s future, reiterating players’ statements of support for their coach.

“I’m not too sure (whether that saved Cheika’s job),” he said.

“We’ve got full confidence in Cheik.

“I said a few weeks ago we are edging in the right direction but it’s a bit inconsistent at the moment.”

While the Wallabies players have been steadfast in their support of Cheika, they were under their own share of pressure too and the relief that was felt in the change rooms after was heard loud and clear.

Australia singing the national anthem, as is customary after a win, rang out down the corridors of Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena and into the post-match press conference room.

Cheika said the volume showed how much the win meant to each of the players.

“(It was) sung with a lot of vigour because obviously things haven’t been going great but we've had - players and coaches, me personally - have had so many messages of support for the team," he said.

"Rugby people - in particular I make a point of country rugby in all different states - QLD, NSW, Victoria, country rugby clubs, Far North Queensland.

“The amount of messages I’ve had from those people because they want Australia to do well and at half-time it didn’t look at Australia was going to do well and the boys that were wearing the jersey made a decision to try and turn that around and they were able to do that and that means something.

“So when it means something you sing louder.

“You run harder, you tackle harder.

“When it means something to you everything's bigger, louder, stronger and that's probably why we were like that.”

Cheika speaks often about the attitudinal and mental sides of rugby and the switch in his team between halves in Salta appeared to serve to prove his argument.

In the space of 15 minutes, the Wallabies went from looking lost to a highly skillful, switched on team and Cheika said that was all in their mind.

"Even the stuff that doesn't work, works, when you've got the upstairs right," he said.

"Even when it goes pear-shaped... I remember going back to the first New Zealand game and you asked me about all the lineouts that went astray in that game.

"It doesn't matter. When the upstairs is working how it should be, you can overcome that adversity.

"We did it this time, we've got to be getting on the front foot with that and we'll have situations that we have to overcome in the future but we've also got to not let ourselves get into those situations too.

"It's an important part of making sure that we're representing the jersey well."