England vs Australia RWC 2015: Michael Cheika stresses 'it’s not just about beating the hosts'

Australia head coach insists Wallabues will be out to boost their own chances despite allure of knocking out hosts

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Having returned to his first choice selection for the decisive group game against England, Australia coach Michael Cheika dismissed the idea that Australia would draw added motivation from the prospect of sealing the host’s World Cup fate at Twickenham.

“If you are playing for that reason you haven’t got a real reason for why you want to do it yourself. Anything we are doing here is for us. Not to do anything to anyone else. Those external motivations, they last for two minutes on the field. When you are going to go through 80 minutes of warfare, or our version of it at least, you need bigger motivations than that. 

“Those motivations can go away in a heartbeat as soon as something goes wrong,” said Cheika, who reverts to the team that beat Fiji in the opening pool game, making 14 changes after the victory over Uruguay.

“Our motivation has to come from deep inside, having a real strong ‘why’ as to why we want to be the best we can. Everything else is superficial and dissipate pretty quickly when there are 82,000 English people screaming at you in the stadium.” 

Cheika, a man prone to the odd volcanic eruption, could not have appeared more relaxed 48 hours before the Group A encounter. Dressed in cargo shorts, Cheika cast himself as the anti-Lancaster in attitude and manner. The absence of jargon was refreshing as he rationalised his choices with a typically Australian “this is us, take it or leave it” flourish.

“My thoughts were not governed by this game in particular, just what’s best for us. We are concentrating on ourselves and trying to get the best out of the group. Something we have worked hard on is to build our team spirit, and connection, to believe in ourselves and be ready for any challenge that is put in front of us. 

“Every game is a final for us. We are not trying to pick faults in the opposition, trying to talk about that is weakness on our part. We don’t want to be weak mentally at all, or look for excuses before the event even starts. We want to go and play in a no-excuse environment.”

England’s victory over Australia a year ago at Twickenham was the result of a forward-led assault and crushing dominance in the scrum. Cheika has bolstered the forward effort via the appointment to his coaching staff in June of revered Argentinian scrum doctor Mario Ledesma. In seeking to gain a mental edge England back row Ben Morgan reminded the Australians of their capitulation this week, much to the amusement of Cheika.  

“I know they think we’re weak in the forwards. It’s pretty obvious that, they’re saying it out loud. They’ve done it to us, they’ve stuck it to us the last couple of times so there’s nothing we can say in our room that’s going to make any difference. 

“The only place things are going to be different is on the field on Saturday night and that’s where we’ve got to show our colours. Talk’s cheap, you know.

“I believe in my players 201 per cent. That stuff’s not even resonating in my mind. I’m thinking about my lads, how we’re going to play: good technique, good tactics and the stuff you don’t need talent for, which is very big physicality. And trying to get the balance right.”

The Bledisloe Cup victory over the All Blacks in Sydney before departing for the World Cup was a restating of Australian values as Cheika sees it and a clear indication that, 12 months into the job, his team is beginning to function according to his design.

Skipper Stephen Moore re-inforced that view, rolling out the Cheika line when asked to comment on England soul-searching in the build-up to this game. 

“We have not spent a whole lot of time on that. We have been focused on our first two pool games and this week just preparing well. What other teams are involved in, we have not had time to think about.”