Miffed by criticism, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has leapt to the defence of vice-captain Michael Hooper’s decision to go for goal, rather than push for a fourth try, in their World Cup win over Fiji.
Hooper, taking over the decision-making onfield after the benching of hooker and captain Stephen Moore, opted to take a penalty shot at goal with the Wallabies on the attack, and holding a 12-point lead, with ten minutes remaining.
Bernard Foley duly split the uprights and Australia maintained the 15-point advantage until the fulltime whistle – but failed to cross the white stripe a fourth time, missing out on the bonus point which England had secured in their first-up victory over the Pacific Island nation.
The obsession with five-point victories has surprised Cheika and the Wallabies, who insist their plan of picking up four pool victories will negate any fear of “skimming through” in the ‘Pool of Death’.
And Cheika backed the call to shoot for goal – saying it was one he’d make “all day”.
“I thought the logical approach is get out beyond two scores and then you do what you can from there,” he said.
“That’s the way rugby has always been played at Test match level, and I certainly am not going to disrespect the opposition because anything can happen.
“You give away an intercept try, or something happens, and then all of a sudden you are in a game where the other team scores and the crowd were behind them obviously.
“Anything can happen. You have to make sure of the result and that’s what (Hooper) did.”
Another issue of concern for the Wallabies was the breakdown of the lineout, especially following the substitution of specialist Rob Simmons.
With the two-metre Simmons off the park Fiji’s lineout took command and won three wins from Australia’s throw.
Cheika explained there was no singular problem for the lineout woes – one came from a low throw, a second was stolen out of the hands of Dean Mumm and the third was a miscommunication due to the raucous atmosphere at Millennium Stadium.
“But it is an area I want to get sharper as well,” he said.
“Set pieces you can only continue to improve because as teams watch you in the tournament they start making plans for what you are doing.
“So you have to keep changing little bits and pieces to make sure you are always one step ahead.
“We are going to meet plenty of challenges, as we are going to challenge the opposition in that area.”