Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika faces what could be “the biggest challenge” of his coaching career in this weekend’s Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand in Wellington.
The Wallabies had home advantage on Saturday but were well beaten 8-42 by the All Blacks and now face the daunting task of playing the All Blacks with them having home advantage.
Under Cheika Australia won the Rugby Championship in 2015 and the coach led the Wallabies to the Rugby World Cup final in his first 12 months in charge of the side.
This year the Wallabies have yet to win a match and conceded 40 points in their last two tests. The loss to the All Blacks was their fourth straight loss at home after losing the series 3-0 to England in June.
The Wallabies last victory over Argentina in the Rugby World Cup Semi-final and this week Cheika’s Wallabies will be without the experience of Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne at the least due to injury.
When asked where the size of this week’s task lies in his coaching career he said, “Probably the biggest.”
“It’s a big stage and it’s a big challenge for us,” Cheika told the Australian Associated Press.
“The criticism from the performance (last weekend) 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.
“(The players) are 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.”
Cheika created the “Giteau rule” last year so that he could bring back players such as Will Genia, Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper but this week Cheika has had to defend his players by dismissing criticism on their performances.
“I thought Will Genia was one of the players who did stand up in that game,” Cheika added.
“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.
“It hasn’t gone this year how we wanted it to, but we’re not going to go and cry with our thumb in our mouth back to mummy.
“We’re going to get in there and fight and get ourselves sorted out and that may be enough. It may not be. But that’s what we’re definitely going to do this weekend.”