Friday 22 March 2019

Michael Cheika: I expected to face Argentina in the semi-final

Australia head coach Michael Cheika celebrates with Kurtley Beale during Rugby World Cup
Australia head coach Michael Cheika celebrates with Kurtley Beale during Rugby World Cup

Ruaidhri O'Connor in London

Australia coach Michael Cheika says he always expected Argentina to overcome Ireland and reach the semi-final and has been preparing for the Pumas.

The former Leinster supremo said he "expected totally" that the South Americans would be their last four opponents despite the fact that they faced the Six Nations champions in last Sunday's quarter-final.

Argentina stunned an under-performing Ireland side at the Millennium Stadium, running in four tries in their 43-20 win that ended Joe Schmidt's side's interest in the tournament.

"Am I surprised that they're in the semi-final, no not at all," he said.

"I expected it totally. We see them on a regular basis over the years now in the Rugby Championship and so we're not surprised at all at their position now.

"We would have expected it, so we've been preparing accordingly."

Cheika will delay naming his team to face their Rugby Championship rivals until after today's training session in the hope Israel Folau (ankle), David Pocock (calf) and Scott Sio (elbow) can prove their fitness.

None of the three key players have trained so far this week and all are considered doubtful.

Pocock is potentially the biggest loss to the Wallaby cause, but flanker Michael Hooper believes they have the depth to absorb his absence if he doesn't make it.

"Benny McCalman stood in the No8 position really well and had a good game. I tried to play my normal game without David there and I think that's what Cheik' wants players to do, to play their game regardless," he said. "People coming to add their spice on the game."

And Hooper is well warned about the threats the Argentinians possessed having been involved in Australia's defeat to the Pumas in Mendoza last year.

"Argentina are a great team, this year we got the win there but it was still a hard, very tough game," he said.

"They're a physical team, really good ball in hand and offloads; those sort of things. I'm really excited about playing them. It's going to be an 80 minute, full on match."

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