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What is the Cheika way?

Michael Cheika. (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU)
Expert
9th October, 2015
129
3953 Reads

Michael Cheika’s due diligence and dedication to detail and depth can win the Wallabies a record third William Webb Ellis Trophy.

There is a condition, however: he must not deviate and must stick to his formula.

In 2015, the Wallabies have won seven of their eight internationals that included beating the Springboks, Pumas and All Backs in the Rugby Championship.

The one time Cheika deviated cost the Wallabies the Bledisloe Cup for the 12th year.

He dropped the Wallabies’ best forward and one of the world’s best David Pocock to the bench, picked renowned benchman lock Will Skelton in the starting line-up, and selected Nic White as halfback with Matt Giteau his sidekick. He also picked Matt Toomua at inside centre, Quade Cooper as flyhalf, and a six-man forward bench, with just two backs – Giteau and Kurtley Beale.

It was a Cheika brain explosion.

Result, the All Blacks hammered the Wallabies 41-13. Cheika had blown all the self-belief he had built up within his top team, and they reacted accordingly.

This week, Cheika has tempted fate by dropping lock and lineout caller Rob Simmons to the bench for Dean Mumm, and selecting winger Drew Mitchell for Beale, who had a 70-minute blinder against England last weekend.

Admittedly, it’s just two selection deviations and not six, but will it cost the game against Wales and force the Wallabies into the finals section with the Springboks and All Blacks?

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That would be far worse than the ‘Pool of Death’.

So what is the Cheika way?

He started his winning formula this year by signing former Puma hooker Mario Ledesma as his Waratahs scrum coach, and took the Argentine with him to the Wallabies.

It’s no secret the Pumas love scrummaging with a passion, but it was always a weak link for both the Waratahs and Wallabies in recent times.

Ledesma, a veteran of 84 Tests between 1996 and 2011, fixed both packs by directing power through the hooker with all eight forwards staying tight and pushing strongly.

But it took hours of dedicated scrummaging to perfect. The Wallabies scrum has put in plenty of overtime to perfect the art, but it’s been well worth the extra effort.

And Nathan Grey’s defence patterns at this World Cup are matching the three greatest moments in Wallabies history – the 1984 Grand Slammers, and the World Cup wins in 1991 and 1999.

So far the Wallabies’ try tally is 17-2 in three Tests – the Slammers in four Tests scored 12-1, the 1991 World Cup 15-3 in six Tests, and in 1999 they scored 22-1 in six as well.

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That’s the detail, now the depth.

Frontline props: Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu.
Standby: James Slipper, Greg Holmes, and Toby Smith.

Frontline hooker: Stephen Moore and captain.
Standby: Tatafa Polota-Nau and James Hanson.

Frontline locks: Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons.
Standby: Dean Mumm, Sam Carter and Scott Fardy..

Frontline flankers: Michael Hooper and Fardy.
Standby: Sean McMahon and Ben McCalman.

Frontline No.8: David Pocock.
Standby: McCalman.

Frontline halfback: Will Genia.
Standby: Matt Giteau and Nick Phipps.

Flyhalf: Bernard Foley.
Standby: Matt Toomua, Quade Cooper, and Kurtley Beale.

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Frontline centres: Giteau and Tevita Kuridrani.
Standby: Beale, Toomua, and Henry Speight.

Frontline wingers: Adam Ashley-Cooper and Rob Horne.
Standby: Beale, Drew Mitchell, Speight, and Joe Tomane.

Frontline fullback: Israel Folau.
Standby: Beale, and Ashley-Cooper.

Beale is the most versatile back, who is deserving of a starting line-up berth – a big-game specialist, and that’s what they all are from here on in at the World Cup.

The only weak position is halfback with Phipps getting harder and harder to trust after his 20 minutes of hell against England.

For safety’s sake, Genia must play the full 80 minutes, and hopefully last the distance, or at a pinch let Giteau take over.

So the Cheika way will be under the microscope again against Wales.

A loss and it’s a quarter-final against the Boks, and a semi against the All Blacks. A win and the only time to meet those two heavyweights will be in the final.

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And that’s a whole lot more palatable.

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