Cheika not picking a fight yet with Jones

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked a squad that can cope with England's physicality in their upcoming three-Test series.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked a squad that can cope with England's physicality in their upcoming three-Test series.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • If Australia national rugby coach Michael Cheika is intending to engage in a war of words with his England counterpart Eddie Jones ahead of next month's rugby Test series, he appears intent on reserving his most fiery comments until he can see the white of the tourists' shirts.

Cheika named a 39-man training squad for the Wallabies' three Tests against England yesterday, and was happy to talk about his selections, including former captain James Horwill and 10 uncapped players.

Offered the chance to respond to Jones' observation that it would be a "failure" if England do not win the series, Cheika was not biting.

"He's very happy with the team he's got and by saying that he obviously thinks that he'll come down here and win 3-0," he said.

"That's his way of motivating his troops, and that's good. They've been together a little bit longer, I guess, they played the Six Nations together and they're on more of a roll.

"We're just starting to reconnect again when we get together in the Sunshine Coast and start preparing for that first match and just thinking about that kickoff. That's it."

That first match is in Brisbane on June 11 with Tests in Melbourne and Sydney following over the next two weekends.

Asked about Jones' suggestion that England would bring some extra physicality and aggression to the Tests, Cheika was not biting again.

He did, however, hint that he would be preparing his players to fight fire with fire.

"I'm not a big statement maker," the 49-year-old added. "I've heard a lot of those comments and I think that's awesome because the contact is the part of the game I love.

"I want my team to love it, the physicality of the game and the aggression. That's to be expected."

There were further hints in his squad selection that Cheika expects a physical series with the inclusion of towering uncapped locks Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman and hulking backs Samu Kerevi and Taqele Naiyaravoro.

"I think a few big guys in rugby helps," he said. "But sometimes big is not always just in height, it's in heart. Some of our smaller blokes need to show up too."

There was another hint when he was asked about the return of Horwell. Cheika spoke of his admiration for the way the lock had reacted to his omission from last year's World Cup squad - "He took it like a man" - and how his experience of playing for the Harlequins in England could be invaluable.

"It's got a bit fiery in there at times and I've seen him in the middle of it, which I like," the coach said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Cheika not picking a fight yet with Jones'. Print Edition | Subscribe