Wednesday 7 December 2016

Cheika eager to sidestep mind-games war with Jones

Nigel Whittaker

Published 07/06/2016 | 02:30

Michael Cheika: Refusing to be drawn into mind-games. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Cheika: Refusing to be drawn into mind-games. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Cheika is refusing to be drawn into pre-series mind-games with his old friend Eddie Jones as Australia and England step up preparations for Saturday's first Test in Brisbane.

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Jones, who has asked his tourists play 'Bodyline' rugby Down Under, has dismissed a claim by former Randwick team-mate Cheika that the Wallabies' team for the Suncorp Stadium opener has yet to be finalised.

"It's all smoke from Cheika at the moment. He's boxing clever but I know there'll be no shock selections coming," Jones said.

It has been a relatively good-tempered build-up between the rival coaches to date and Cheika intends to keep it that way.

"Eddie hasn't really thrown many barbs. He hasn't called me fat or bald or anything like that. He hasn't been nasty," Cheika said.

"I want to dedicate all my energy to our guys and make sure I'm doing my job properly here.

"I don't want my players to think that all that stuff's going to win us the game. It's a bit of carry-on, but what will win us the game is aggression, speed, good skills, hunger and being prepared to do whatever it takes.

"We are working internally around our mental strength.

"History has proven it's not good to fight a war on two fronts so my focus has been on our team. I just want the guys to improve.

"Eddie is just doing what he thinks his team needs, so that's what he's doing to support his team."

Divided

In only 12 months Cheika transformed the Wallabies' fortunes by elevating them from a divided and underperforming squad into World Cup finalists.

His success saw him linked with the England job until Jones was appointed as Stuart Lancaster's successor, and his contract has since been extended to encompass Japan 2019.

However, despite Australia lighting up last autumn's global showpiece, Cheika warns that the team start 2016 from scratch.

"Your performances and good performances have to be earned and re-earned again," he said. "We feel very passionate about wanting to make the Wallabies a team that everyone wants to be a part of in Australia.

"To do that we have got to continually re-earn belief, confidence and support by performing the best we possibly can.

"I am not saying even always winning, more performing the best we possibly can to get that kind of respect.

"This 2016 team is a very different team and it would be foolish to think that anything that has happened in the past is going to help this team perform bar the connections that we have made as people between us since we have got together."

Irish Independent

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