Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is prepared to take the slower route to the top rather than the cheap way of trying to usurp a New Zealand side he believes is only improving.
The new face at Wallabies training in Sydney this week has been recently appointed national skills coach Michael Byrne, who filled a similar role with the All Blacks for 11 years.
Cheika was somewhat taken aback on Friday by the suggestion he should tap into Byrne’s knowledge of New Zealand heading into Australia’s opening Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup contest later this month.
“I’m not the type of guy who is going to go and ask Mick: `What do New Zealand do in this situation?'” Cheika said.
“Because I think maybe it’s cheap. That’s not why we want Mick to come over.
“We wanted Mick to come over and coach with us because he’s brilliant at helping develop skills.
“I’m not looking to take the lift, we want to take the stairs. We want to work hard and earn anything we can get against our opponent.
“I don’t think asking him `what are they doing here or what about this what about that?’ is going to solve anything for us.
“We’ve got to have that in ourselves already and I like him and I don’t want to put him in that position either.”
Cheika said while his own team was evolving in the aftermath of their 3-0 series loss to England, New Zealand had shown signs of improvement in their series sweep of Wales.
“They’ve shown that they are looking to play the game with a lot of speed and a lot of intensity and a lot of offloading, which is probably just a slight step up,” Cheika said.
“You can see that they’ve changed and evolved in that way already, the way they’ve used the kick.
“The cross-kick and the kick-pass, they’ve brought that into that game.”
He said while it had helped to have so many players together for so long following Australia’s poor Super Rugby showing, that had to be balanced against the advantage of high-level match play New Zealanders and South Africans were still getting.
“If you look at the way we are setting ourselves up now, we’re having to do probably other things to replace that game practice around our fitness training,” he said.
Cheika said there was still one or two spots up for grabs, but that Israel Folau would likely stay at fullback despite his continued good form at outside centre in the latter rounds of Super Rugby.
He said he liked what Folau did in the wider channels and that incumbent outside centre Tevita Kuridrani’s form had improved.
Cheika said winger Drew Mitchell, who has been recovering from groin surgery, would join team training next Monday.
Three players were trimmed from the train-on squad of 36, halfback Nick Frisby, prop Toby Smith and outside back Luke Morahan.
All four uncapped players, props Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson, back Reece Hodge and back-rower Lopeti Timani, survived the cut.
Australia’s Rugby Championship train-on squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Adam Coleman, Quade Cooper, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, James Hanson, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Sekope Kepu, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore (cap), Dean Mumm, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Lopeti Timani, Matt Toomua.