Wallabies coach Michael Cheika admits criticism from ex-players “hurts” but concedes the team has to grin and bear it until their fortunes turn around.
Cheika’s comments come after former Australia winger Clyde Rathbone essentially challenged the team to be realistic about their chances in Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand, writing in his column for rugby.com.au that “blind faith in one’s ability is a slippery slope to delusion.”
“The truth is pitiless, indifferent to all but the purity of its own self evidence. And the truth is that the All Blacks are a much better team than the Wallabies,” wrote Rathbone, a 26-cap Wallaby who retired in 2014.
Cheika said Rathbone was entitled to his view – particularly in light of the Wallabies’ disastrous 42-8 defeat to the All Blacks last week in Sydney – but warned if the shoe was on the other foot, he wouldn’t necessarily do the same.
“That obviously hurts us, doesn’t it,” he told reporters on Friday in Wellington.
“When it gets tough, it’s very easy for people to jump on and put the boot in and we have to take it because we haven’t performed.
“But at the end of the day, no matter what sport Australia’s playing at, I’ll be supporting them no matter what.
“I was certainly supporting Greg Chappell when he got six or seven ducks in a row, back in the day in the West Indies and the pressure was on, because he’s a great Australian player, and that’s what I know what I’d be doing if I was sitting on the other side. But that’s his choice.”
Cheika said the team would not be using Rathbone’s words, or any other external comments, as motivation for Saturday’s clash at a sold-out Westpac Stadium, which Australia is expected to lose heavily.
“I think this week our inspiration has to really come from ourselves and pride in our performance,” he said.