Cheika: I’ll put my hand up

Michael Cheika has taken full responsibility for Australia’s disastrous Cook Cup series defeat to England, admitting their wasted possession in Saturday’s second Test was down to failed communication on his part.

The Wallabies saw 68 per cent of the ball, had 56 per cent of territory and ran for almost 700m more than England but lost 23-7 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, unable to find a way past the tourists’ incredible and resolute defence.

The only points Australia scored were from a converted first-half try, which came via a rolling maul – the free-flowing, exciting rugby they played in patches during the series opener in Brisbane last weekend was nowhere to be seen.

Cheika claimed the Wallabies played too much in the “wrong areas” and said that was down to his messaging.

“I’ve got to really own that as a coach. We prepare that in the prep of the week. I’ve got to explain it to the lads more forcefully,” he said.

“I’ve got to make sure that message is clear. I know we want to play a lot of footy, that’s how we want to play the game – stack more passes, stack more rucks.

“It doesn’t always convert into the scoreboard. That will happen sometimes, playing that way but it shouldn’t happen regularly.

“We’ve got to learn to play a lot of footy and win the game too.”

Cheika also conceded he got some of his tactics wrong, saying the Wallabies should have kicked more often to alleviate pressure.

But he said full credit had to be paid to England and their coach, Eddie Jones, who outpointed his former Randwick teammate for the second week running.

“In both games so far they’ve played very smart, they’ve played in the right areas and played well at the ruck, they’ve spoiled a lot of good ball for us,” Cheika said.

“They’ve seen that we’re going to play a lot of footy and chosen the sort of opposite way, which is always the contrast in styles – and their way has been victorious pretty clearly, even though we’ve had a lot more attack.

“We’re going to have to take that, suck it up and (I’m) not even going to say learn from it – just use the scars later on.”

Cheika was also unhappy with the performance of referee Craig Joubert, who made some puzzling penalty calls, and with the state of the surface, which dug up under the weight of scrums in an embarrassing look for the Australian Rugby Union – but he was at pains to point out none of those factors cost them the game.

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