SYDNEY (Reuters) - Trying to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2003 should help his Western Force players deal with the disappointment of their side being cut from Super Rugby, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said.
The Perth-based Force had their Super Rugby licence rescinded by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) on Friday after they agreed to cut one team from the competition following a decision to reduce it from 18 teams to 15 from next season.
Cheika has six Western Force players in his squad preparing for their Aug. 19 clash against New Zealand in Sydney, which doubles as the opening game of the Rugby Championship and a Bledisloe Cup match.
"Obviously they were disappointed, there's no doubt about that, but as a professional player they've also got to prepare themselves as well," Cheika told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
"If there's any one thing that could keep your focus when something like this happens, it's the quest for winning a Bledisloe."
Cheika said he had been impressed with the way the Force players -- Adam Coleman, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Curtis Rona, Billy Meakes and Tetera Faulkner -- had handled the pressure of the decision.
"It was just about how we would try and deal with things and how they wanted to deal with things," Cheika added.
"From what I've seen of all our lads and those (Force) guys in particular, they've come in with a really strong focus on preparing themselves.
"Both Dane and Adam, who came in with some injuries have worked super hard to get themselves right.
"Then new guys like Rona and Billy Meakes, who have come in, have just excelled (and) they are competing strongly for places within the team."
Cheika indicated that he had also learned a lot from watching the way the British and Irish Lions pressured the All Blacks in their recent drawn series and he would likely ask his players to replicate that on Saturday.
"The target needs to be to put New Zealand under pressure," Cheika told Channel Nine earlier. "Then we will see what happens from there, we'll see if we can take the pickings."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)