New coach Cheika learns home truths on Wallabies tour

  • Rugby
  • Thursday, 04 Dec 2014

Australian Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika directs his players during the warm-up before the rugby union test match against France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris, November 15, 2014. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's disappointing tour of Europe left Michael Cheika with plenty to ponder over the gap between provincial and international success, but the new Wallabies coach remains confident the team can be World Cup contenders.

Cheika, Australia's third coach in a little more than a year, enjoyed an encouraging win over Wales in his first test in charge but finished the tour with three successive losses against France, Ireland and England.

Australia have slumped to fifth in the world rankings and their struggles against the more muscular packs of the northern hemisphere sides might augur poorly for their hopes of winning a third World Cup in England next year.

Cheika, however, has proved himself a master of the quick rebuild, having turned Sydney's New South Wales Waratahs from a rabble of southern hemisphere provincial rugby into Super Rugby champions in two seasons.

"As much as I love winning more than anybody, I wasn't shattered from what I saw on the trip," Cheika told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.

"Obviously I didn't know a lot of the lads even before I left. So, I've been in this situation before.

"You take a bit of flak with a few losses etcetera when you're making changes. You've just got to believe in yourself and ride it out and get everyone pushing together on the same page.

"I was really positive with some of the stuff I came away from the tour with, guaranteed."

Cheika, who took Irish side Leinster to a maiden Heineken Cup triumph, said stepping up to a national coaching role had been a "learning curve".

He also suggested that, having discovered the strength of defence at the highest level, the attacking game he has traditionally favoured had bumped up against some limits.

"It's about me understanding what I can do and what I can't do around the attack side of the game.

"You only have to have a look at the England game, that our attacking numbers were off the charts... but we still came out the other side of the ledger," he said of the 26-17 loss at Twickenham, where the Wallabies' forwards were dominated.

"As to the direction that I'm going to be giving to the team, I've got to really put more accent on the (forwards), particularly if we're going to be successful at the World Cup."

(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien)

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