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Cheika: Wallabies face 'biggest' challenge yet

The former Leinster coach admits that Australia are up against it following their 42-8 defeat to the All-Blacks at the weekend.

Australia coach Michael Cheika.
Australia coach Michael Cheika.
Image: Brett Hemmings

FORMER LEINSTER AND current Australia head coach Michael Cheika believes he is facing his biggest challenge since taking charge of the Wallabies as they look to rebound from their loss to New Zealand.

The Wallabies suffered an embarrassing 42-8 defeat to the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

Cheika, who has been at the Aussie helm since late 2014, said the difficulty of the task awaiting him and his team was huge as they prepare for another meeting with the world champions.

“It’s probably the biggest [challenge]. It’s a big stage and it’s a big challenge for us,” he told a news conference this morning.

“The criticism from the performance is very warranted, no doubt about that and when there’s a lot of that talk in your head you start to get weighed down by it.

“They’re feeling pretty terrible about it so we’ve got to get them back up into a situation where that’s driving them to do something better this weekend.

“I know a lot of people think the same result’s going to happen and we understand that but it’s up to us to prove otherwise.”

Australia’s Europe-based players – Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper – were criticised for their performance in Sydney.

Cheika was unwilling to buy into that criticism, however, and said: “I thought Will Genia was one of the players who did stand up in that game.

“Giteau played for about a minute or two so that’s a convenient thing for people to say and look for a reason. The reality is that the Australian team didn’t play well that day.

“Since I’ve been here, win or lose, we’ve always been pretty true to our identity and that’s the first time I don’t think that we have – and we’ve got to make that right.”

Cheika left Leinster in 2010, after guiding the province to their first Heineken Cup title. He replaced Ewan MacKenzie as Australian head coach in 2014 after stints with Stade Francais and NSW Waratahs.

Since taking over the Wallabies, Cheika has led them to success in the Rugby Championship and bagged the World Rugby Coach of the Year for himself last year.

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