Ryan Byrne/INPHO Heaslip alongside Simon Zebo and Peter O'Mahony at Ireland training.
# Old friends
Heaslip: You couldn't repeat some of the stuff Cheika says in the sheds
Ireland have been praising the Wallabies head coach, but also stress that they are focusing on their own display.

THERE WILL SURELY be handshakes and jokes post-match, but Ireland won’t be spending too much of their week worrying about Michael Cheika.

The former Leinster coach is back in Dublin with his Wallabies side, returning to the land where he established himself as a world-class coach. Magners League and Heineken Cup trophies with the eastern province kick-started their ascent to the peak of the European game.

Australia have won twice [one of those in a non-Test match against the Barbarians] and lost once since Cheika took the reins after Ewen McKenzie’s departure, and the accepted notion is that he can drive improvement ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Cheika is renowned for his ability to build a strong work ethic within his group of players, something that stood out in the Waratahs’ Super Rugby success this year and at Leinster before.

Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip is one man who has worked under Cheika’s demands and confirms the idea that the Australian insists on a no-bullshit culture.

I don’t think I could say it!” laughs Heaslip when posed the task of explaining how the Wallabies might come to reflect Cheika’s character.

“What Cheiks says in the changing room and in the shed in terms of training, I don’t think that stuff can be repeated at times!”

Michael Cheika shares a joke with Jamie Heaslip James Crombie / INPHO Heaslip enjoying one of Cheika's training sessions at Leinster in 2007. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“He is a very passionate man, he would wear his heart on his sleeve and that’s good because you definitely know what he’s thinking and what he’s feeling. Then in terms of organisationally and thinking about the game, a very, very smart man.

“He always has an ability to come up with some really good linebreaking moves; I know because I’ve been on the receiving end of them. So a lot of respect to him there.”

Heaslip was breaking into the Leinster set-up in 2005, the same time Cheika arrived to push the province into order and towards success. As a result, Heaslip benefited more than most from the training ground standards.

With Cheiks, I have some quite fond memories,” says Heaslip. “He’s a unique character. When I turned pro, my head coach was a back row player, so I got some extra attention probably off Cheiks.

“It was always good and I’m sure he’s going to give them a unique perspective into us, and into a lot of different players, that they probably wouldn’t have had before. But at the same time, he’ll be quite focused on getting Australia right and getting them into a good place.

“That’s a dangerous combination of a really good head coach and some cracking players.”

Meanwhile, Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby was similarly, if less enthusiastically, positive about the coaching ability of Cheika.

Simon Easterby 14/11/2014 Dan Sheridan / INPHO Easterby will look for his pack to dominate against Cheika's men. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I would have coached and played against teams that he would have coached,” outlined Easterby. “He’s a competent guy who’s got lots of good ideas. He’ll want to come here and make sure the Aussies produce a performance that shows him up in a good light.

“He’s not long in the job, but I think it’ll be one game he’ll want to come and impress in.”

In the build-up to this fixture, much mention has been made of the possibility that Cheika will provide the Wallabies with key insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the Irish players.

For Easterby, that is not a major factor, and the former back row points out that Ireland have other elements of the game to focus on.

There will be an insight into him in terms of our team, but that’s a while ago, isn’t it? He’s been to a couple of different clubs since then and we’ve moved on. I think if we focus too much on that, it’s too much of a distraction.

“We focus on what we bring and what we can deliver, making sure that we get our processes right. We’ll leave the other stuff to other people to deal with. We’ll focus on getting our own house in order.”

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