Call it the ‘Cheik’ list – the many things the Wallabies coach is adamant his team can still improve on.
The rugby world expects New Zealand to lift for Saturday’s Bledisloe cup decider in Auckland after their loss last Saturday, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has emphasised his side can also play much better.
“We’ve got such a big margin for improvement,” Cheika said on Tuesday.
“We’re still making a lot of mistakes and our work rate can improve a lot, our physicality can improve a lot.
“I think that there’s a lot of areas that we can improve.”
Cheika was looking for daily improvement through this week so his side would be competitive and avoid a repetition of last year when the Wallabies were thrashed 51-20 in Auckland a week after holding New Zealand to a 12-12 draw in Sydney.
“There will be a certain expectation over there that they will give it to us,” Cheika said.
“That’s what the perception will be from their home crowd. They will be expecting that especially after last year.
“The way it is, is that we’ve just got to go out there and do our absolute best and make our Australian people proud of the way we play.”
Cheika revealed he was considering changing last Saturday’s winning lineup, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether that might include the halves.
Replacements Nic White and Matt Toomua were key figures in Australia’s decisive late surge after starters Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley struggled to make an impact.
He suggested changes wouldn’t be purely based on form as he continued to look at different combinations ahead of the World Cup starting next month.
“There might be a few changes,” Cheika said.
“We’ll have a look at what the weather might do over there as well and just see what the best combination for us is.
He said he was keen on slipping players in and out of the lineup.
“I know that’s traditionally not what people like, but I like the idea because you might lose a guy in a match or you might get an injury,” Cheika said.
Australia’s most capped Test player, former captain and halfback George Gregan attended Tuesday morning’s training session and spent several minutes after the session talking to Phipps, who had appeared shaken after spraying some wild passes last Saturday.
Cheika said there was nothing significant about the timing of his visit.
“I was speaking to George the other day, I said `just come down and have a run.'” Cheika said.
“You’re not going to change the world in a day, but you might get something here or there, a word of advice or just something that helps.”
Fullback Israel Folau didn’t do contact work because of a leg bruise but Cheika said he was fine, and prop Scott Sio finished the session early after getting a poke in the eye.
Veteran centre Matt Giteau was given an extra day’s recovery and didn’t train on Tuesday morning, though Cheika joked it was due to a “bit of old age.”
Cheika was leaning towards veteran back rower Wycliff Palu being somewhere around the Wallabies squad this weekend, rather than playing in the Sydney club grand final.