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Cheika hesitant to label England northern hemisphere's best

England’s gritty style is not one that the Australia coach is keen to replicate.

Australia coach Michael Cheika.
Australia coach Michael Cheika.

AUSTRALIA COACH MICHAEL Cheika believes his side would have got the better of England if they had been able to maintain their first-half performance in Saturday’s 37-21 defeat at Twickenham.

Victory was England’s 14th in a row since losing to the Wallabies at last year’s Rugby World Cup, and the 13th under new coach Eddie Jones, ensuring an unbeaten 2016 for the hosts.

Australia had made all the early running, going 10-0 up and seeing two more tries ruled out by the TMO, before they faded.

Cheika was hesitant to label England as the northern hemisphere’s top team, having also taken on France and Ireland during their season-ending tour, and he lamented a second-half collapse from his side.

“We’ve played some really good rugby this year, but we’ve played some poor rugby as well and the second half here was in the middle,” he said.

But the first half was good so if you look in that respect, [in the] first half we needed to score more points. We had a few opportunities, we had a few penalties, but we needed another try to be further ahead, and second half we needed to react to stop the momentum that England created.”

Cheika praised England’s approach to the game, although he hinted it was not a style he favoured.

“I think they played a good game, they believe very much in the style of game they’re playing,” he said.

It’s a pressure style, conservative. You saw even in the games at Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne [when England won a first-ever series in Australia back in June] a lot of tries off errors when we’d loaded up our attack.

“I think they play a very solid game, they’ve bought into that very well. They’re very well coached and you can’t win 14 Test matches in a row out of luck.

“They’re playing very good rugby and that’s why they’re winning games.”

Asked if England were the best side Australia had faced on their tour, Cheika added: “It’s hard to know. I thought Ireland played very well in the first half when we played them… it’s all half games.

They [England] probably acquire points well. [Owen] Farrell’s an excellent goal kicker so they’re able to acquire points well off penalties etcetera, and then they’ve played with pressure and I think with their ranking at number two in the world. It shows they’re probably the premier team here [in the northern hemisphere] right now.”

Though lamenting a second year in succession that has ended in a defeat at Twickenham, after their World Cup final loss to the All Blacks, Cheika is still enthused by the Wallabies’ progress.

“We knew there was 15 Tests this year against the top-eight nations and we’ve had a massive turnover in our squad,” he added.

We finished our season last year in the same dressing room after a loss so we’ve had two disappointing finishes to ’15 and ’16.

“But we’ve definitely improved a lot as a team and we’ve got a lot of young lads with Test experience, and that’s only going to build.

“We’ve got some other young lads we’re looking at bringing next year and we’ll continue doing that in ’17 to grow our group, so by the time we get to ’18 we’ve got a good selection to choose from.”

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