It’s well documented that during the lead up to the English series in June, Eddie Jones won the battle of the friendly banter that I think upset Michael Cheika, even though Cheik won’t admit it. Now the mind games have begun in the lead up to the first Test against the All Blacks this weekend.
I thought it was strange for Cheika not to fire back as I know he likes to fight fire with fire, as we’ve seen already this week against the All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
In my view he should have had a go back at Eddie as he was coaching, at that stage a much stronger team on paper after convincingly knocking England out of RWC last year.
I suppose this prompted Mr Hansen to question Cheika on why he was using this tactic which eventually bit him on the bum, both on and off the field.
Again it’s well documented that Cheika didn’t appreciate any advice, especially from a Kiwi, which has now started the barbs between the two coaches and is hopefully creating some interest to the rugby public amongst the Olympic hysteria.
From my point of view, during this week leading up to the first Bledisloe match in Sydney, I wouldn’t have said anything to antagonise the All Blacks as we haven’t held the Cup since 2002.
I noticed today that Wallaby winger Rob Horne has made a comment saying that the pressure is on the Kiwis as they are supposed to win, is he kidding himself?
After the season from hell this year with the Australian franchises’ poor performances, plus the whitewash against England, I know which team the pressure will be on.
I’m not sure what tactics the Wallabies have taken with the press this week after I heard Cheika stating that the All Blacks think the Wallabies have no chance this weekend.
After the Wallabies inflicted a surprise win last year against the All Blacks in Sydney, I’m sure Steve Hansen will have his team fired up and will let them do the talking, which is something that us supporters will expect of the Wallabies.
I think it’s about time we stopped talking and take the game to the Kiwis!
It will be interesting to see what team Cheika selects and now that he has brought back the cavalry from the Northern Hemisphere, if he will be able to fit them all in.
Will he opt for Genia over Phipps?
Will he play Giteau at inside centre to assist Bernard Foley manage the game (whilst giving much more variety with a right and left foot option in the midfield)?
And where is he going to play Israel Folau?
Personally, I would still leave Israel at fullback as it gives the Wallabies an X-factor now that Kurtley Beale has been injured.
Other commentators are calling for Folau to play at outside centre because he will have more involvement and they are right, but if I were an opposition coach I would rather have their best player in a structured backline where a good defensive unit could contain him instead of letting him attack in an unstructured environment.
This is where Cheika will be relying on Backs Coach Stephen Larkham to give him some wisdom, which has been lacking of late.
Has Drew Mitchell, who has not played since March, forced his way back into the team along with Adam Ashley-Cooper or will he also be on the bench with Quade Cooper?
Will the Wallabies introduce young guns like Tom Robertson or Reece Hodge into the starting line up or as Cheika now calls them, the “finishers”. Both deserve to be in the mix somewhere after great performances in ordinary teams.
The combination of the back five will keep Cheika up for most of the night. What will be the locking pair? Does he start with Skelton or will he go for someone like Lopeti Timani who has had a great season, to be paired up with Kane Douglas, one of Cheika’s favourites?
I’m assuming that the Wallabies will go with a proven back row of Fardy, Hooper and Pocock, which will leave McMahon out on the bench. I think that will be a mistake as McMahon will give the Wallabies a better running option with aggression to boot.
So many crucial decisions to be made, which will make Cheika a hero or a dunce.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes at the moment because there are options in nearly every position.
Whatever decisions he does make, he will make them for the right reasons, his reasons, as he has never shied away from backing his selections.
I just hope the team that he picks repays the faith he has instilled in them to finally bring home the Cup.
- Glen Ella, exclusively for Sportsta