MELBOURNE • Australia coach Michael Cheika has hit back at his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen for suggesting he had been "bullied" in the media by England mentor Eddie Jones.
Australia lost the three-match rugby Test series when their defeat in Melbourne on Saturday gave England a 2-0 lead with a game to play.
Hansen then commented that Cheika's refusal to engage Jones through the media had ended up playing out on the pitch.
"Cheika's letting Eddie have a free rein - to the point where it actually seems like he's letting Eddie bully him in the media," said Hansen, whose team defeated Australia in the Rugby World Cup final last year.
"I don't know if that's because they know each other that well, or if there's a pecking order from the old days. That's gone on to the park, hasn't it?"
Cheika had allowed Jones to hog the headlines in the lead-up to each of the first two Tests, but was not about to let Hansen's jibe slide.
"I'd be pretty nonplussed about that," he said in Sydney yesterday when asked about the remark.
"That's a really shallow sort of view, I suppose, on what's really involved in coaching and he knows better than that. It's easy to kick blokes when they are down, so we are down, but we'll be getting back up, don't worry about that."
Jones suggested Hansen's comments had ulterior motives.
"He's only being mischievous, he's trying to help himself for the Rugby Championship," the England coach said, referring to the Southern Hemisphere tournament involving Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina which starts in August.
Although having taken a pot-shot at Australia's set-piece problems and not missing an opportunity to describe Cheika as the "world's best coach" at every media appearance, Jones denied trying to get under his rival's skin.
He again showed his penchant for a sound bite, referring to Saturday's dead rubber at Sydney Football Stadium as like a "World Cup final" and declared England are the side to "put a challenge to (the All Blacks)".
"To win a World Cup you've got to win three big games in a row," he said. "So it's a great dress rehearsal for us."