Com­bat­ive Cheika has Wal­la­bies in the groove

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Rugby Union - By James Corrigan at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium

If a con­fi­dent Aus­tralian is a dan­ger­ous Aus­tralian, then a con­fi­dent and ag­grieved Aus­tralian as­sumes a dif­fer­ent level of men­ace en­tirely.

Eng­land should be­ware the Wal­la­bies, be­cause, led by their venge­ful coach, they are de­ter­mined to prove they should not be taken lightly. Of course, few know their coun­try­men as well as Ed­die Jones, and he is not about to al­low com­pla­cency any­where near the Red Rose psy­che. Cer­tainly not when he sees the tapes of Aus­tralia’s 13th suc­ces­sive vic­tory over Wales, in which their big­gest names re­minded all of their qual­ity. They de­mand re­spect, but coach Michael Cheika be­lieves they are sorely lack­ing in that area.

“We un­der­stand that the pun­dits over here don’t think we have much of a chance,” Cheika said. “They have al­ready given Eng­land 3-0 for Novem­ber. One guy said, ‘All re­spect to Aus­tralia, but a de­cent club side would beat them’. So I don’t think there is too much for them to worry about.”

Ex­cept there is. Aus­tralia are in the groove. This ex­tended their un­beaten run to seven games, dur­ing which they de­feated the All Blacks three weeks ago. Granted, Eng­land beat them four times in 2016, but on the ev­i­dence of the past few months they are a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion now.

Will Ge­nia is re­turn­ing to the form that saw him hailed as the game’s finest scrum-half a few years ago. His bul­let pass for Adam Cole­man’s try was sheer class, but then Ge­nia’s af­ter­noon was packed with the stuff. His part­ner­ship with Bernard Fo­ley is re-es­tab­lish­ing its world-class cre­den­tials.

The last time Ge­nia faced Eng­land was in the 2015 World Cup and a match which fea­tured the home side mak­ing his­tory as the first hosts ever to fall at the group stages. “I missed out on the Eng­land games last year, so I can’t wait for the chal­lenge,” Ge­nia said, be­fore re­call­ing the 33-13 rout. “A lot of stuff came off for us that day, we were sharp both men­tally and phys­i­cally. It was a great per­for­mance, but all that is done. We’re not wor­ried about things that have hap­pened be­fore.”

Cheika will likely bring Kurt­ley Beale into in­side cen­tre from full­back at the ex­pense of the im­pos­ing but lim­ited Samu Kerevi. Beale has an un­canny knack of pro­duc­ing the match-win­ning mo­ment, and here it came in the 65th minute when he ripped the ball off St­eff Evans and ran 60 me­tres un­der the posts.

War­ren Gat­land re­ferred to it as “sort of freak­ish” and posed the pos­si­bil­ity of his Wales team end­ing their nine-year drought with­out it. That seemed a stretch, de­spite the at­tack­ing in­tent and greater cre­ativ­ity on dis­play through­out the home ranks.

Cheika’s main con­cern was the penalty count, which was, re­mark­ably, 15-3 in Wales’s favour. “Con­sis­tency is what we are look­ing for,” Cheika said. “We go in­side the 10-me­tre, and we are pe­nalised. Fair enough. Then two plays later, the lines­man calls the ref­eree and says the Welsh are in­side the fiveme­tre off a scrum and he says it’s all good. There was just so much com­men­tary com­ing from the side­lines. We’ve got to solve a prob­lem we haven’t had all year. We’ve not been in dou­ble dig­its al­most all year, so to go 15 in our first game in Eu­rope sur­prised me.”

Cheika com­pli­mented Wales and there was a gen­er­ally up­beat re­ac­tion, re­gard­less of the deja vu. Barry John, a long-time critic of Gat­land, was ful­some in his Wales on Sun­day col­umn. “From crash, bang, we were sud­denly like pi­ano play­ers with the ball, touch­ing it lightly and deftly,” he said. There was high praise for Owen Wil­liams, the Glouces­ter fly-half mak­ing his first in­ter­na­tional start at No 12. As John said, the 25-year-old “oozed class”.

The evening ended with the sad sight of Jonathan Davies leav­ing the sta­dium on crutches. The fear is that his an­kle in­jury will cause him to miss the rest of the au­tumn.

Match de­tails, P16

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