Se­niors de­liver a spray

Cheika glad play­ers take the ini­tia­tive

The Queensland Times - - DIGEST SPORT - Iain Payten The Daily Tele­graph

RUGBY UNION: With the Wal­la­bies trail­ing Ar­gentina by three points af­ter a dozy first half in Can­berra, the scene was set for a trade­mark Michael Cheika spray.

The kind that blis­ters paint on a dress­ing room wall. But Cheika didn’t need to fire up.

When the coach hit the dress­ing rooms, se­nior play­ers were do­ing the job al­ready and af­ter sig­nif­i­cantly up­ping the in­ten­sity, the Wal­la­bies went on to pump the Pu­mas by 25 points.

It was the Wal­la­bies’ first win in al­most three months but of all the welcome sights for Cheika on the field in Can­berra, the team’s self-cor­rec­tion in the sheds was among the most sat­is­fy­ing.

Cheika said on Sun­day it was the first time he’d seen that trait from this new Wal­la­bies team.

“It’s just the stepping stones the team is go­ing through. Last night at half-time that was just an­other step for­ward be­cause play­ers were very vo­cal about turn­ing that around, and turn­ing the at­ti­tude around,” Cheika said.

“The play­ers are driv­ing that more and more. I think that’s a good step for­ward be­cause when it comes from them, and they re­alise it, they own it and they have to change it.”

Cheika’s main gripe – shared by the team – was they’d failed to play with the ur­gency re­quired for Test rugby in the open­ing 40 min­utes against the Pu­mas.

Dropped passes, sloppy break­down work and in­ef­fec­tive tack­les had Ar­gentina camped in the Aussie half for 71% of the half.

The en­cour­ag­ing part about the player-driven re­sponse, said Cheika, was that it wasn’t even ini­ti­ated by cap­tain Michael Hooper.

Se­nior play­ers like newly ap­pointed vice-cap­tains Bernard Fo­ley (pic­tured) and Will Ge­nia, and re­turned star Kurt­ley Beale, were the loud­est voices be­fore Hooper took over.

Cheika said it was good to see them un­der­stand­ing how in­flu­en­tial all their voices can be to the host of young play­ers in the Wal­laby squad.

“The guys re­ally took own­er­ship and knew what was go­ing wrong and ad­dressed it,” Fo­ley said.

“We didn’t have to wait for the coaches to come in and give us the typ­i­cal Cheika spray at half-time. We wanted to get on top of it and ad­dress it be­fore any­one.”

The Wal­la­bies’ for­wards re­sponded strongly, and us­ing far more mus­cle in con­tact and with a dom­i­nant set-piece ef­fort, the hosts’ pres­sure even­tu­ally told on the Pu­mas.

“It was just more fo­cus­ing on us get­ting our in­tent right in the start of that sec­ond half and that was prob­a­bly re­ally pleas­ing to see the way the guys re­sponded,” Fo­ley said.

PHOTO: LUKAS COCH/AAP

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