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Michael Cheika's immediate Wallaby headache

Michael Cheika has welcome Curtis Rona into the Wallabies starting line-up. (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU)
Expert
29th July, 2016
53
3698 Reads

When the Wallabies reached the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham last year, Michael Cheika’s career stat was 15 Tests for 11 wins at a 73 per cent win-rate – and the Wallabies were ranked No.2 in the world.

After losing the RWC decider to the All Blacks and all three Tests to England, Cheika’s win rate has dropped to 57.9 per cent, and the Wallabies to fourth in the world rankings behind the All Blacks, England, and South Africa.

To increase Cheika’s headache, the five Australian franchises played their New Zealand Super Rugby counterparts 26 times this season.

The Kiwis won 22 with a draw – almost one-way traffic.

The only positive parts, the Brumbies thumped the Hurricanes 52-10 in week one.

The Reds drew 25-all with the Blues in week four, and beat the Highlanders 28-27 in week seven.

And the Waratahs beat the Chiefs 45-25 in week 14 – and that’s it in 26 games.

To worsen the headache, the Kiwis scored a total of 876 points, the Australians 482.

Individually, the Waratahs were “the best”, scoring 126 points to 146 – a difference of minus 20 in five games.

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The Brumbies managed 124 points to 176 – a diff of minus 52 in six games, reaching the quarters.

Then it gets really ugly.

The Reds scored 77 to 169 – a diff of minus 92 in five games.

The Force scored 68 to 163 – a diff of minus 95 in five games.

While the Rebels managed only 87 to 222 – a diff of minus 135 in five.

The tries told the same sorry story.

The New Zealand franchises scored a total of 124 tries, the Australians just 60.

The Waratahs scored 18 to 20, the Brumbies 14-23, the Reds 10-24, the Rebels 12-33, and the Force a miserable six to 24.

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Cheika now has to lift a Wallaby squad which has been hammered by New Zealanders to defend the Rugby Championship they won so handsomely last year, and try to regain the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.

And the first two games would have to be against the All Blacks, and just a week apart.

If Cheika can’t lift his squad, their Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup campaign will be done and dusted in the first seven days.

The Wallaby draw
August 20 against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium – referee Jaco Peyper.
August 27 – the All Blacks at Wellington – Romain Poite.
September 10 – Springboks at Suncorp – Nigel Owens.
September 17 – Pumas in Perth – Wayne Barnes.
October 1 – Springboks at Loftus Versfold – Wayne Barnes.
October 8 – Pumas at Twickenham – Mathieu Raynal.

Who?

Raynal is French and 34-years-old. He has reffed nine Tests, but the only ones I can find are Malta-Netherlands, Scotland-Tonga, and Uruguay-USA, unless they are counting Junior World Cup games.

One Raynal quote is worth repeating.

“I enjoy travelling, meeting new people, having friendships, and developing as a person holistically.”

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Heaven help us.

The Wallaby Rugby Championship squad of 36, to be trimmed later:

Forwards (20):
Allan Alaalatoa.
Adam Coleman.
Kane Douglas.
Scott Fardy.
James Hanson.
Michael Hooper.
Sekope Kepu.
Ben McCalman.
Sean McMahon.
Stephen Moore (c).
Dean Mumm.
David Pocock.
Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Tom Robertson.
Rob Simmons.
Scott Sio.
Will Skelton.
James Slipper.
Toby Smith.
And Lopeti Timani.

Backs (16):
Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Quade Cooper..
Israel Folau.
Bernard Foley.
Nick Frisby.
Will Genia.
Matt Giteau.
Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reece Hodge.
Rob Horne.
Samu Kerevi.
Tevita Kuridrani.
Drew Mitchell.
Luke Morahan.
Nick Phipps.
And Matt Toomua.

Greg Holmes, Steve Carter, and Christian Lealiifano have been overlooked, Rory Arnold has an elbow injury, while Liam Gill is Toulon-bound.

Good to see David Pocock is back, and Lopeti Timani has at last been included.

But Michael Cheika has to lift the recent performances of skipper Stephen Moore, Scott Fardy, Scott Sio, Dean Mumm, Rob Horne, and especially Nick Phipps.

At least Will Genia’s there.

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