You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Michael Cheika confident Australia will have edge on European tour

The Guardian The Guardian 9/10/2016 Paul Rees
Australia Coach Michael Cheika © Getty Images Australia Coach Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika is confident Australia will be on the edge when they arrive in Europe next month for their grand slam tour of the four home unions and France but they have spent most of the year on the edge of a cliff and a scruffy victory over Argentina in the first Rugby Championship match outside the southern hemisphere did little to suggest they will be all-conquering.

Argentina enjoyed 66% of possession in front of the biggest “home” crowd they have attracted for a championship match against Australia – the organisers were so surprised at the number of spectators who bought tickets on the night that a number missed the start – but their cavalier approach led to mistakes, four of which led to the Wallabies tries.

“Our maul was pretty good against Argentina and our scrum stood up,” said Cheika, Australia’s coach. “When we return to Europe next month [after another joust with the All Blacks] we will want a little more edge around everything. I think we need to start chasing what we want out of the game a little harder.”

Australia have not enjoyed continuity this year: only seven of the side who started last year’s World Cup final against New Zealand ran out on Saturday evening. Their back division have continually changed, mainly because of injuries, and if there has been salvation for Cheika in a year in which the Wallabies, Argentina and South Africa fought to avoid finishing last in the table, with the All Blacks romping to the title, it is that he has more depth now.

“I did not realise the team would change as much,” Cheika said. “Looking at the side that finished against Argentina, if you had predicted that a year ago people would have said you were mad. A number of guys have stood up, especially the young ones, and we are creating some competition. That should help us bring the edge I am looking for in what will be a special tour for us.”

While Australia’s defence held up for the most part to Argentina’s offloading, high tempo and improvisation, their discipline was suspect. Michael Hooper and Adam Coleman received first-half yellow cards for high tackles, although the worst offender, Rory Arnold, remained on the pitch. In the second period the replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps lunged at one of Argentina’s medical team, who was jogging off the pitch after treating a player, and shoved him to the ground, believing he was going to pick up the ball, which was not in play.

Phipps, who in an earlier championship match against New Zealand threw away the boot of an opponent, was reprimanded by the referee but not sent to the sin-bin and after the match received a warning from the citing commissioner for an act that was deemed “contrary to good sportsmanship”.

New Zealand had earlier in the day shown how far they were away from the chasing pack with a record 57-15 victory in South Africa and if there is a consolation for Australia, Argentina and South Africa before their tours next month, it is that the game in Europe is less quick and skilful, and they will meet teams much closer to them. Australia start in Cardiff on 5 November, having made a bonfire of Wales’s aspirations in the past eight years.

Argentina could pose the greatest problems of the three because they attack in a manner rarely seen in Europe. When they clicked on Saturday, they were irrepressible but they lacked a general to steer them around the pitch and they too often tried to make things happen rather than scent opportunity.

Ultimately, the difference between the sides was the two tries the Pumas gave away through careless passes in their own half but they looked to have more potential than Australia. It was nous they lacked but that should come as their players gain more experience in the Rugby Championship and they were missing six players through injury.

In Samu Kerevi, Australia had a centre who thought on his feet and scored two tries. “We will be a lot more confident against England in December than we were in the summer, when we were a young team with a number of debutants,” he said. “We will be a different team and we showed our defensive structures have improved when we held our line on the two occasions we had a player in –the sin-bin.”

Argentina Tuculet; Moroni, Orlando, De la Fuente, Moyano (Cubelli, 57); Iglesias, Landajo; Noguera (García Botta, 67), Creevy (capt; Montoya, 65), Herrera (Pieretto, 67), Petti (Kremer, 74), Alemanno, Ortega Desio, Matera, Senatore (Leguizamon, 50).

Tries Alemanno, De la Fuente. Con Iglesias. Pens Iglesias 3.

Australia Folau (Kuridrani, 78); Haylett-Petty, Kerevi, Foley, Hodge; Cooper, Genia (Phipps, 63); Sio (Robertson, 60), Moore (capt; Hanson, 74), Kepu (Ala’alatoa, 60), Arnold (Fardy, 55), Coleman (Douglas, 60), Mumm, Hooper, Timani (Houston, 69).

Tries Coleman, Kerevi 2, Mumm. Cons Foley 2. Pens Foley 3.

Sin-bin Hooper 16, Coleman 30.

Twickenham 48,515. Referee M Raynal (Fr).

More from The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon