The teams meet in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday in what shapes as a Pool D decider in Tokyo, and coach Michael Cheika says the game plan for his Wallabies' first northern hemisphere opposition this year won't be changing.
"We're coming up against one of the best defenses in world rugby," he told reporters Monday. "It's going to take a certain amount of perseverance to be able to break that wall." According to Cheika, the Wallabies' plan is to try and run through that wall and not chase kicks over it. There's been a lot of kicking at the World Cup, so far, but the Australia coach is satisfied that his team kicked the ball out only 11 times against Fiji last Saturday in a 39-21 comeback win in Sapporo.
Australia's high-risk running game played into Fiji's desire for broken fields, and two-time champion Australia found itself down by nine points after halftime. Then Australia tightened up, scored two tries from rolling mauls, and the danger passed. Cheika says their running game is here to stay, however.
"We're not big kickers of the ball. Australians like to play with the footy in hand," Cheika boasted. "It's not going to be perfect all the time. That is the way we are born to play. "I get it, I understand there are the tactics, kick and pressure, and all that business, but there is no guarantee that style of footy is going to win us games either. There is no one saying, 'Play like that and you are guaranteed victory.' There are plenty of teams that play like that and don't win."
Cheika said the running game "is who we are and that is how we want to play footy." "That's how I'd like my young fellas to play footy and I'd like the young Aussies to watch us playing like that," he said. "And maybe pass a bit better, catch a bit better."
The attempt to play more up-tempo was a philosophy the coaches asked the players to buy into this year. It has netted them four wins out of six, including one of the New Zealand All Blacks. "It has been a bit of a running joke. If we don" know what we are doing then the opposition has no chance of knowing what we are doing," Cheika said. "A certain amount of unpredictability is good for us, and good for the game."
The match with Fiji was also a good lesson for the 18 Wallabies at their first World Cup, Cheika added. Primarily, that World Cup matches aren't the same as normal test matches. "They got great hands-on experience," Cheika said, "about what it takes to be in the contest, and to take your opportunities when they arise."
They took them just in time in Sapporo.
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