Wal­la­bies coach optimistic of chances against All Blacks

New Straits Times - - Sport - MICHAEL CHEIKA

MEL­BOURNE: Aus­tralia can still chal­lenge the All Blacks this sea­son de­spite the na­tion’s abysmal record against New Zealand teams in Su­per Rugby, Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika has said.

The five Aus­tralian sides have lost all 17 Su­per Rugby matches against their New Zealand coun­ter­parts and chances to break the drought are fast run­ning out.

“I can un­der­stand why peo­ple might think it’s all doom and gloom — a hun­dred per cent,” Cheika said in com­ments pub­lished by The Aus­tralian news­pa­per yes­ter­day. “But it’s not from my per­spec­tive.

“I know the Su­per Rugby form from our teams hasn’t been bril­liant. No one can ar­gue with that, but there’s been some good per­for­mances.”

Cheika led the New South Wales Waratahs to the Su­per Rugby ti­tle in 2014 but it has been down­hill for the Aus­tralian con­fer­ence since, as New Zealand have gone from strength to strength.

Aus­tralia’s teams man­aged only three wins against New Zealand op­po­nents in Su­per Rugby last year, which pre­ceded the Wal­la­bies’ 3-0 thrash­ing by the All Blacks in the an­nual Bledis­loe Cup se­ries.

New Zealand’s dom­i­nance has raised grave con­cerns about the state of the game in Aus­tralia, where Su­per Rugby coaches have backed calls for a na­tional con­clave to help halt the slump at provin­cial level.

The Wal­la­bies were white­washed 3-0 by Ed­die Jones’s Eng­land in last year’s June in­ter­na­tion­als but face more mod­est op­po­nents next month in Fiji, Scot­land and Italy.

Cheika said he would use the matches to bed down a new gen­er­a­tion of play­ers that would carry through to the 2019 World Cup in Ja­pan.

“We started this last year and copped a bit of grief with our mixed re­sults, about 50 per cent (win­ning record), but with the ex­pe­ri­ence they’ve gained and a lit­tle bit of hard­ship, I think they’ll be bet­ter,” he said.

“I know peo­ple will say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’, but we’ve got a good bunch of young guys in this (World Cup) cy­cle. Now it’s all about cre­at­ing that com­pe­ti­tion and putting the squeeze on the older, es­tab­lished guys.”

Cheika con­ceded there was a lot of work to be done be­fore the Wal­la­bies face the All Blacks in their Bledis­loe Cup opener in Syd­ney on Aug 19, also the teams’ first match of the south­ern hemi­sphere’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment.

“We have to change a few things, change at­ti­tudes and mind­sets, but I still be­lieve strongly in the guys we’ve got.” Reuters

We have to change a few things, change at­ti­tudes and mind­sets, but I still be­lieve strongly in the guys we’ve got.

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