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'That’s not a very nice term to use' - Michael Cheika hits back at Neil Francis

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 14/06/2018 Murray Kinsella

a man holding his hand up: Cheika was not impressed with Francis' comments. © AAP Cheika was not impressed with Francis' comments. Murray Kinsella reports from Melbourne

WALLABIES BOSS MICHAEL Cheika has hit back at ex-Ireland international Neil Francis after he labelled David Pocock ‘a cancer on the game.’

Writing for the Irish Independent in the wake of Ireland’s defeat to the Wallabies last weekend, Francis was critical of the flanker for his work at the breakdown.

There is history between Cheika and Francis, with the latter having previously labelled Leinster as ‘ladyboys’ during Cheika’s time in charge of the province.

And Francis’ latest column has angered the Wallabies head coach.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: Pocock was superb last weekend. © AAP Pocock was superb last weekend.

“I think David Pocock is a cancer on the game,” wrote Francis. “Yes, I do have grudging admiration for all his abilities and it is great when you have a player like that in your side… he had six legal turnovers and three illegal turnovers, and he and his buddy Michael Hooper managed to slow the ball down more than enough to stop any rhythm that Ireland looked like they were beginning to achieve. You have to make special preparations to counter Pocock.”

Cheika was asked about Francis’ comments by an Australian journalist at his press conference in Melbourne today and the Wallabies coach expressed strong displeasure at the term used to describe Pocock.

“That guy needs to choose his words a little better I think, to be honest,” said Cheika of Francis. “It’s not a very nice thing to say.

“I’m not worried about what he thinks about Poey’s footy, I just think that’s not a very nice term to use. There’s people who are really sick out there, I’m not into that.

“He used to say a lot of stuff about us when I coached Leinster as well, some unflattering words he would use for his own publicity. That’s fine.”

Preventing Pocock from getting a similar grip on the breakdown in the second Test at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday will be a key focus for Ireland.

While Cheika is sure that Joe Schmidt’s team will be on the lookout for Pocock, hoping to limit his influence however possible, he feels the Brumbies back row is more than capable of dealing with the close attention.

“He’ll wear it, he’s a tough guy,” said Cheika.

“He’s working real hard, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s tough, he can take a battering and he can keep getting up. I don’t see why it’s a big deal, he’s doing what he does, that’s his contribution to the footy team.

“He’s got a lot of other skills apart from just the ruck. That’s good, everyone should just keep watching him at the ruck and they’ll forget about the other good stuff he does on the field.

“He carried some good balls last week, distributed the ball well a couple of times, his support play. He’s had a good entry back into the team but he’s got improvements still to go for sure.”

Cheika has named a completely unchanged matchday 23 for Saturday’s second meeting with Ireland, the first time he has done so in his 46-Test tenure as Wallabies coach.

“I didn’t realise that until I was just told,” said Cheika. “It was the first game of the season last weekend, so we were a bit rushed, we crammed a lot into last week.

“So I’d just like to give those guys another opportunity to get out there with the understanding of being together for another three or four days and try to do better because we need to raise the bar on ourselves, on our own standards, this week to give ourselves a chance of winning the game.”

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