Sport

Cheika pumped for pain against All Blacks

READY FOR ALL BLACKS: Australia's Michael Hooper could return for Bledisloe Test this weekend.
READY FOR ALL BLACKS: Australia's Michael Hooper could return for Bledisloe Test this weekend. DAVID ROWLAND

RUGBY UNION: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says there's no place he'd rather be than facing the record-seeking All Blacks than at Eden Park, in Auckland.

It's the toughest challenge in world rugby - New Zealand hasn't lost at the so-called house of pain since 1994 and the last time Australia beat the All Blacks there was back in 1986.

"I'm old fashioned, I look forward to it,” Cheika said before leaving Sydney for Saturday's third Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks.

"It's a great opportunity and it's going to be a tough environment, but that's where you want to be.

"If you don't want to be there playing those games, where do you want to be in footy?

"It's no good to have it all comfortable and rosy.

"When it's tough is when you've got to stand up and it will certainly be tough there, but I'm so looking forward to getting over there and getting into it, it will be great.”

With the exception of Nick Phipps coming in for France-bound Will Genia, it's expected that Cheika will name a relatively unchanged starting XV to the one that beat Argentina 33-21 in London a week ago.

Cheika confirmed abrasive forward Sean McMahon would miss the Test, but said that David Pocock was a strong chance to return via the bench after missing the last two Test matches with injury.

After winning last year's Rugby Championship and reaching the World Cup final, the Wallabies have won just three from nine matches in 2016.

But Cheika said that despite his side's difficult year thus far, he had seen progress and said that the Wallabies would ultimately benefit from their testing season.

"I think the England series we actually played some good footy, we just couldn't get ourselves over the line,” he said.

"We had more and more new players coming in and we're starting to learn the connections, the strategy, the shape of the game and also the mental strength and the belief that we need to have in each other.

"I know that no one wants to hear those things and everyone thinks it's an excuse when a coach puts it out there - I don't care what people think - but they take time to build.”

The All Blacks are looking at a record 18th Test win in a row on Saturday.

"And yes, we want to win every game along the way as well, so you say it's tough, yeah it tough but going through those tough times is good for you as well,” Cheika said.

"To build a consistency of high level play, you need to work at it. It's not just going to come because you snap your fingers. And yeah you'll take a few hits along the way, but so be it.

"But it's still a pretty good place to be and we're enjoying our work everyday when we go to training and the lads have stayed very solid under a fair bit of heat.”

Topics:  all blacks bledisloe cup cheika wallabies


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