Cheika clarifies relationship with Johnson


“There’s no major hurry, we’re not training yet, are we?

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“You can’t panic … but you do have to react, make some changes according to what we thought didn’t work for us last year.

“Just because we had a bad year last year, I don’t want to throw three years of work we’ve done beforehand away.”

Cheika said he and Johnson have been having regular chats since the former Wallabies assistant coach and recent director of Scottish rugby was hired by Rugby Australia.

It will be interesting to see the power balance within the Wallabies set-up and the high-performance ranks given Cheika and Johnson are individuals who don’t like taking backward steps and have strong beliefs in their coaching methods.

New voice: Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson.Credit:AAP

“After Scott was appointed, he was pretty comfortable in making sure that I had the ability to deliver whatever style of game I wanted to bring,” Cheika said. “I would be naive to not link in with him. He’s got good experience internationally and he brings a different perspective from the outside. That might encourage me to change one thing here.

“We played against each other and we’ve known each other for a fair while. I don’t think there’s going to be any dramas whatsoever.

“If there is a drama, we’ll get on with it regardless because sometimes you have the argument, then you’ve got to disagree and commit and get on with what’s best for the country to win the World Cup.

“Even before if a CEO came down and said, ‘You’ve got to do this’, and I didn’t agree with it, I always had two choices: do it, or not do it and face the consequences. It’s really simple.”

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The Wallabies won four of 13 matches last year and since the World Cup have been victorious in 17 of 42 Tests.

Australia have slipped to sixth in the world but Cheika is still optimistic the side can replicate their success at the 2015 World Cup, where they finished second.

“Everyone has been part of teams where they’ve had that bad season and you’ve got to react accordingly to make sure the next season is a whole lot better,” Cheika said. “We’ve got a few things we have done and will do off the field, as well as some things on the field that we will change for this year.

“Maybe you want to turn up this year with something a little bit different. I’m not saying that we’re going to do that but maybe we will. [There could be] some different things around the way we play.

“Some of those were already in ‘program’ to be changed regardless of last year because if you want to do a few different things on the field then maybe last year isn’t a great time to show it.”

Cheika has been casting his eye closely over Super Rugby and was asked who he thought was the in-form Australian hooker of the competition. He nominated Folau Faingaa from the Brumbies but put the heat on the 23-year-old to sort his fitness out.

“He needs to get his rig in order,” Cheika said. “He needs to get fitter and shed a few kilograms. Sorry to say it on TV mate, but you need to get into it and get fit because that guy is a quality player.”

Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

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