Michael Cheika is holding his tongue, vowing to let his Wallabies fire back at Eddie Jones on his behalf as preparations ramp up for the three-Test home series against England.
It’s so far been a one-way war of words between serial pot-stirrer Jones, who lands in Brisbane with his England squad early on Thursday morning, and his former Randwick teammate Cheika, who is playing the straight man role to a tee.
Ex-Wallabies coach Jones has already warned he’s bringing a team ready to play “Bodyline” rugby and last week said anything but a maiden series win by England in Australia would be a “failure”.
His hand-picked assistant Glen Ella has followed Jones’ example, with Cheika revealing the former Wallaby fullback has started to “wind (him) up” with a few missives from abroad.
Cheika still isn’t biting.
“I’ll have to leave that to my more experienced campaigner,” Cheika said.
“It’s all in good fun.
“Like I’ve always said, the grenades will start going when we’re on the field – the 15 guys run out there, the whistle blows and that’s when the real action should start, and I’m sure it’s going to.”
Second-year national mentor Cheika then showered Jones, Ella and the rest of the English coaching panel in praise, saying their vast experience is a great benefit for England – in contrast to the Wallabies and Cheika’s offsiders, Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey and Mario Ledesma, who are “still learning”.
“Guys like Eddie, Glen – there’s no doubt having that type of input is going to be helpful to them,” he said.
“I’m really pleased with the way our coaching staff’s come back together – young guys, we haven’t got a lot of experience. They’ve got a lot of experience coaching international footy between them all.”
The Wallabies trained at their Caloundra base on Tuesday morning, where Cheika led a willing session and rifled through some interesting backline combinations.
But a clearer picture of what the team for the first Test at Suncorp Stadium on June 11 might look like won’t emerge until Christian Lealiifano joins the squad after the birth of his child.
A strong contender for the No.12 jersey, Lealiifano remains in Canberra with his pregnant wife, who is overdue by more than a week.
Mystery still surrounds Cheika’s plans for the centres, with Kurtley Beale’s injury, Matt Giteau’s absence, Israel Folau’s scintillating Super Rugby form at No.13 and the likelihood England will roll out Ben Te’o in the series opener giving him plenty of food for thought.
“It’s a matter of just getting the right balance of players for the game as a whole, for the start and the finish, picking the right guys to do both jobs,” Cheika said.
The Wallabies have a day off on Wednesday.