Michael Cheika insists the Wallabies will be sticking to their guns and have to play better – not differently – in the wake of their Cook Cup series defeat.
Just don’t call Saturday’s third Test against England at Allianz Stadium a dead rubber.
“It’s not dead,” Cheika said after the Wallabies touched down in Sydney on Sunday.
“I understand the concept (but) you play every Test on its merits.”
Barely disguising his hurt after losing to England 23-7 in Melbourne to hand the tourists their first series win in Australia, Cheika insisted his wounded troops still have plenty to play for.
But one thing they won’t be doing – despite Eddie Jones steering the Red Rose to one of their most famous triumphs abroad with traditional, disciplined, old-school rugby – is switching their style up.
The Wallabies dominated possession and territory at AAMI Park but struggled to get past England’s courageous defence.
They were reluctant to take territory kicking options when they were there and turned down multiple opportunities to score from penalties, instead opting to roll the dice for a try and kick for touch.
“The temptation’s always (to) kick more,” Cheika said.
“And there will always be the concept of (we’re) naive not kicking more or playing to the way we want to play the game and backing ourselves.
“We’ll decide how we want to go from here, but we’re a team that has a really clear identity of how we want to play the game and we’ve just got to step up and do it better.”
Cheika also denied he had been outfoxed by Jones, who has cheekily labelled him the world’s best coach – in reference to his 2015 World Rugby Coach of the Year award – throughout the series.
“All that stuff’s irrelevant – trophies, awards. It doesn’t count at all,” he said.
“I know where he’s going with that.”
Cheika said he was “banking” on all of his players improving in time to deny England what would be an embarrassing 3-0 series whitewash.
He flagged further changes to the team and said some of his players had to adjust to the way rucks have been refereed – although he was at pains to stress that no external factors were at fault for their current predicament, which Cheika wants his players to remember, and remember well.
“The hard times will give you the good times,” he said.
“I know in 2014, when I first came in, we had that tour (of New Zealand and Europe) where we lost a few games and we got so much out of that for the next season.
“Now, guys are learning the hardship or the pain of this.
“They’ve got to make sure those scars are going to be healed only by ourselves, by playing better this weekend and for the rest of the season.”