All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has cautioned Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika to stick to picking his own team for Australia’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Test opener.
Hansen and his squad arrived in Australia on Sunday afternoon in preparation for Saturday’s game at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Cheika recently suggested Hansen faced some interesting selection issues, particularly at five-eighth between Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett as well as openside flanker between Sam Cane and Ardie Savea.
“It’s good of the Australian coach to start picking our team. I’d say he’s got enough problems of his own, probably,” Hansen said at Sydney Airport.
“But we’ll pick ours and he can pick his and he’ll have a lot to say, no doubt.”
Hansen and Cheika engaged in a waspish exchange in the media in June.
The All Blacks mentor suggested Cheika had been bullied in the media by his England counterpart and former clubmate Eddie Jones.
Cheika hit back at Hansen, describing the comment as “really shallow”.
“I just answered a question,” Hansen said in response to being asked whether he had been playing mind games with the Wallabies coach.
“I got asked about how I thought the series was going. I think the Australian camp got a little bit upset with it.
“I left that a long time ago. I’m moving on to what we’ve got to do.”
He said Cane was a 99 per cent chance of being available to play on Saturday despite a recent concussion.
Hansen wasn’t expecting any major changes to the Wallabies game plan, though he expected their kicking game would improve under newly appointed national skills coach Mick Byrne, who previously held a similar position with the All Blacks.
“They’ve brought a lot of people back from the northern hemisphere so that gives them a bit more experience and their back three will be good under the high ball,” Hansen said.
“With Mick there they’ll have a better kicking game I’m sure, but you can’t change it too much.
“There’s a natural way Australia play, so I’m assuming they will stick to what they do.”
Hansen expected Byrne would have already had a strong influence on Australia despite being appointed only three weeks ago.
“He’s a pretty good coach, Mick. He’s learnt a bit, he taught us a bit, so you’ve got yourselves a goody there.”