Criticism of Jones "crazy": Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Criticism of England coach Eddie Jones is “crazy”, according to Wallabies coach and next opponent, Michael Cheika.

Jones has been under pressure in this season with England finishing fifth in the Six Nations, losing their June Series to South Africa and winning just five of their 11 Tests this year.

While the numbers don’t sound too bad for a neutral, it’s a big dip for a team that won 16 in a row when Jones took over at the start of 2016, going straight into a Six Nations tournament win.

If anyone knows about external criticism it’s Cheika, who has had his fair share of tough times in a lean 2018 season.

He wasn’t buying into Jones' critics might be saying though, when asked about the pressure on his England counterpart.

“Crazy. To me, seeing a guy like that, when you say pressure, that’s crazy,” he said.

“They’ve won 20 or 30 games with him, I think that’s just – I don’t know what it is to be honest.

“The guy has taken them to another level since the 2015 World Cup.

“I don’t get that stuff personally, because for mine their play under him has improved, and they’re playing good footy.

“They’re relatively consistent, I know they went for 20 games in a row after the World Cup, you can’t be complaining about that stuff, so I’m not sure why they’re into him.

Australia hasn’t beaten England in six encounters since Jones took over, losing their 2016 June Series and three November internationals after that with some thrillers among them.

Their last win over the English came in the World Cup, a game generally regarded as one of the most complete Wallabies performances.

It’s not unusual for Australia to have a run of tough losses to England - in the lead up to that 2015 World Cup, the Wallabies had won just one of their past five encounters.

Next weekend’s game looms as one of the more intriguing matches in their string with both teams copping heat.

Cheika said there wasn’t one particular thing that had gone wrong in their recent encounters with England.

“When they came to Australia we were transitioning, we made a lot of changes, a lot of players out.

“I thought we were really competitive  in that considering England were coming with a very consistent squad from what they had in the World Cup, we’d made a lot of changes, no excuses.

“But I did think we played some really good footy in that series, didn’t come away with the chocolates, but every game was a real tussle.

“And then, it’s been a little bit of our thing hasn’t it? In the last block leading up to 2015 I remember struggling in matches against England as well.

“I remember coming as coach the first time in 14, they tore us apart in November, the scrum got a bit of a tonking.

“We’ll get out there and give it our absolute best, it’s going to be a big match-up, (wearing the) Indigenous jersey, we’ll be ready to go, we’ll be doing our best for Australia on English soil.”

Despite their recent record, England will be a big step up from Australia’s opponents this weekend, Italy, and Cheika admitted there was still work to do.

Cheika said he had reserved judgement on his best combination of playmakers Bernard Foley, Matt To’omua and Kurtley Beale until after next weekend's Test, leaving some mystery about which way he will lean at Twickenham.

To'omua had his best Test since returning to the national fold when he wore the 10 jersey in Padova but Bernard Foley failed to fire at 12, and it's something Cheika said he has long felt To'omua was capable of.

The Wallabies mentor revealed he had tried and failed to bring To'omua back home last year, before the playmaker re-signed with Leicester through to 2020, with the 28-year-old possessing plenty of valuable qualities.

“Matt’s done enough from before today (to play 10), and well into his form overseas, that’s why we wanted to bring him back," he said.

“We pushed hard for him to come back, it wasn’t really on the cards at any stage from last season when I contacted him about coming back.

“I’m pretty stubborn, so when I went back to him again we knew that having that player would help us, no matter what the situation, whether it’s pushing the other guys to be better or taking on a position with the quality of his play.

“I thought since he’s been back, today was definitely his best game."

Kurtley Beale was solid when he came off the bench but just who fills those jerseys in London is still unclear and Cheika said he might not completely settle on a duo until the international season next year.

“Whatever combination we put together for next week we’ll have a look at it, then going into next season we’ll settle on what we’re going to do," he said.

“Of course there’ll still be competition in those spots because that’s what drives all players to be better.

“After next weekend we’ll sit down in the off-season, watch a bit of Super Rugby and decide as we go into the series next year, in the lead-up to the World Cup, exactly what it’s going to look like."

Australia takes on England at Twickenham on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.