Cheika won't get into spat with mate

BRISBANE • Australia rugby union coach Michael Cheika refused to respond to comments from Eddie Jones yesterday, after his England counterpart threw some verbal jabs ahead of this week's Test series opener.

The pair are friends and former team-mates from their days at Sydney club Randwick but Cheika steered clear of engaging in a war of words before Saturday's game.

Jones, who led England to the Grand Slam in the Six Nations this year in his first season in charge, has been sniping away since his squad arrived last Thursday.

He suggested that Cheika was playing a "smoke and mirrors" game and "boxing clever" over the make-up of his extended matchday squad for the opening match.

Jones, who hinted at a pan-Australian conspiracy when he had his bags searched by Customs at Brisbane airport, even had a guess at naming the Wallabies' likely backline.

But Cheika, who coached Australia to last year's World Cup final after thumping England 33-13 in the pool stage, was not taking the bait.

"It hasn't been nasty. He's just doing what he thinks his team need," he told reporters.

"We probably look at it a slightly different way. We're working internally, I suppose, around our mental strength."

Cheika said he will instead focus his energies on getting the Wallabies ready to perform. "I don't want my players to think that all that stuff is going to win us the game.

"But at the end of the day, what will win us the game is hard work, aggression, speed, good skills, hunger and being prepared to do whatever it takes and that's what I want to build into our lads this week."

In 17 previous meetings in Australia, the Wallabies have won all but three Tests and never lost in four encounters in Brisbane.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Cheika won't get into spat with mate'. Print Edition | Subscribe