Wallabies don’t boast psychological advantage over Wales: Cheika
Cardiff: may boast a 12-game winning streak over Wales but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has brushed aside the suggestion his men will possess a psychological edge over their opponents this weekend.
The Wallabies have a brilliant record against the Welsh, having won every match between the two sides since 2009.
The latest victory was a clinical 32-8 result on last year’s spring tour and the fixture before that will be remembered for the Wallabies’ dogged defensive display in a 2015 Rugby World Cup pool match.
Since 1991, Wales have beaten just twice from 27 attempts, however, Cheika is a man who lives in the moment and believes the hosts will be ultra physical in a bid to snap their torrid run against the Wallabies.
“I’ve never been a believer in this thing that momentum or the last game [counts for something] ??? it’s all about consistency,” Cheika said. “The game starts at 0-0. There’s different guys in the opposition jerseys, there’s different players in our jerseys, there’s a whole different combination and the minute you start to think like that is the minute you’re giving the opposition an opportunity.
“We know how hard the games are when we come here. Last year the score certainly did not reflect how tough the game was. We got away to a good start and after that first bit it was even stevens, hammer and tong. We know how physical it will be.”
Wales have failed to win the first game of an autumn series since 2002 and coach Warren Gatland is well aware of the uphill battle they face to chalk up a confidence-boosting victory.
“We haven’t begun these series that well in the past,” Gatland said. “And we are playing a team that has had eight games together in the last couple of months and beat the All Blacks three weeks ago. We are going in cold.”
There is added interest around this clash given it is Gatland’s first match back with Wales after his stint as British and Irish Lions coach.
Gatland and Cheika have had their fair share of scrutiny in the New Zealand press during the past 12 months. The pair were both depicted as clowns in cartoons in a New Zealand newspaper during respective tours there.
A 1-1 Test series scoreline was a major achievement for Gatland and the Lions and there is a view that players involved in that tour will continue their good work when they start playing for their respective international sides, beginning this weekend.
“He’s had an unbelievably good season,” said Cheika of Gatland. “The Lions were excellent in New Zealand I thought. They managed it really well. He’s a class act.
“I feel like he would have enjoyed that for some reason. I don’t know him very well but he looked like he enjoyed it. We know better than anyone how hard it is to play New Zealand three times a year. I think he did a great job out there. Now it’s a new challenge.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the sets of players. Saturday is a holiday for the coaches – game day is the players’ day.”
Gatland has picked two playmakers at No.10 and No.12 in Dan Biggar and Owen Williams, which is a shift from Wales’ tendency to pick a big ball-running player at inside-centre, like the Wallabies have done with Samu Kerevi for the match at Principality Stadium.
“He’s a fine player, Williams,” Cheika said. “He’s got a good kicking game, he’s got good footwork and he’ll threaten our defence for sure. It’s going to be a challenge as it always is against Wales defensively.”