Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has responded to Steve Hansen’s latest barbs with a measured response this morning, saying he isn’t sure what his All Blacks counterpart is “upset” about.
The tension between the pair has been simmering since June when Hansen suggested Cheika was happy to be bullied by Eddie Jones during England’s whitewash of the Wallabies in Australia.
Hansen continued the verbal sparring on arrival in Sydney yesterday for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup test, responding to Cheika’s suggestion the All Blacks would have tough decisions to make about the selections of openside flanker and first-five – given the form of Ardie Savea and Beauden Barrett – by saying Cheika had “enough problems of his own” ahead of the match.
In a press conference in Sydney this morning, Cheika was immediately grilled by Australian journalists about the apparent feud, and responded by saying: “That’s pretty cool I suppose because that’s what they really think – our problem is that we’ve got nothing and we’re going up against the world No1. That’s what they really think, so I understand what he’s staying, we’ll just be doing our best when we play them. I know not many people are expecting us, as he isn’t, to do much with that but we’ll prepare to our best and see how we go.”
When asked about the “spice” in the exchanges between the pair in the media, Cheika said: “When you say spice, I’m not sure if there’s anything from our end in regards to that. I suppose they’re thinking that we’re the ones who have something to prove.
“When they say we’ve got our own problems that’s what they’re referring to, the fact that we can’t beat them.
“I don’t know what he’s upset about. For us, we know how we’re thought of I suppose, we know that they think we’re no chance to do anything.”
In praising the All Blacks as world champions and suggesting his side have a tough assignment at the ANZ Stadium, Cheika is clearly attempting to build a siege mentality among his side, who beat Hansen’s men in this match last year.
The All Blacks got their revenge with a big victory at Eden Park the following week, then added to it on the biggest stage of all – the World Cup final.
Cheika agreed the Wallabies had a few things to prove. While they are occasionally successful against the All Blacks, they haven’t held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.
The return match is in Wellington next weekend, with a third test at Eden Park on October 22.