Cheika’s ‘unrelenting’ regime
Returning Wallaby Nick Phipps says Michael Cheika’s ‘‘unrelenting’’ fitness regime ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup test will instil a mental toughness in the squad required to beat the All Blacks.
In the aftermath of the three June tests, Cheika questioned whether Australia’s best were fit enough to play the style of rugby he wanted them to play. So Cheika and Wallabies staff have been running players into the ground since Thursday to get them in peak physical condition.
On Thursday and Friday, squad members were put through three sessions per day and on Saturday they were seen sprinting up hills at Sydney Park in St Peters to the point of exhaustion.
Phipps, who for years has been regarded as one of the fittest players in Australian rugby, said the mental fortitude required for such high intensity training could be utilised ahead of the Mount Everest assignment that is beating New Zealand in four weeks’ time.
‘‘In 2014 when the Tahs went so well, there was a direct correlation there between fitness and performance,’’ Phipps told Fairfax Media.
‘‘The mental strength you get out of situations like that is quite useful for those times when you’re up against it, like when you’re trying to repel the 16th phase against the All Blacks.
‘‘That’s something we’ve got to make sure we’re on top of and it’s great that Cheik is doing that. What you learn about yourself when you’re constantly running up and down hills and you’re absolutely spent is something I think you can directly use in a game.’’
The silver lining to the Brumbies’ elimination from the Super Rugby quarter-finals is that Cheika gets extra time to prepare the Wallabies for a highly anticipated clash with New Zealand on August 19.
An extended squad of 38 players convened in Newcastle on Sunday ahead of a five-day intensive conditioning camp, with as many as 10 Brumbies representativesset to join them on Thursday.
‘‘We haven’t really accomplished in Super Rugby and probably one of the main reasons why we weren’t as competitive as we needed to be this year is general fitness and conditioning,’’ Phipps said.
‘‘We just want to make sure that we’re as best as we can possibly be for the first game. If we’re not ready to be physically as good as we can be by the first Bledisloe, we’re wasting out time. ’’
Phipps said he needed to get his own fitness up to scratch after spending seven weeks on the sideline with an ankle injury.
The 28-year-old came on for 26 minutes in the Waratahs’ last match of the season against the Western Force but it was an excellent 80-minute stint for Sydney University on Saturday that helped Phipps get rid of any cobwebs.
For 50 minutes of the match, however, Phipps played at fiveeighth instead of his usual halfback position and performed auspiciously, according to his club captain and former NSW Waratah Tom Carter.
Phipps, Will Genia and Joe Powell are the three halfbacks vying for two positions come Bledisloe I. In June, Genia was a little below the high standards he usually sets himself, while Powell failed to take his chances with limited minutes off the bench. Phipps said he wanted nothing more than to win his Wallabies jersey back.