Cheika : Wallabies won’t panic after third loss

Michael Cheika has cut his squad to 33 for next week's Test

Australia coach Michael Cheika has insisted that the Wallabies will not panic after they ended the year with a 26-17 loss to England taking them to three consecutive losses.

The loss to England at Twickenham on Saturday means that Australia had their worst European tour since 2005 as they lost three out of four Tests.

The Wallabies did manage wins over the Barbarians and Wales on tour but after a 29-26 loss to France and a 26-23 loss to Ireland they lost by 9 points to England.

England, not for the first time, dominated Australia at the scrum less than a year out from the teams’ World Cup pool clash at Twickenham, with Wales also in the same group.

But Cheika, parachuted into the role of Australia coach shortly before the team left for Europe following the shock resignation of Ewen McKenzie, insisted the two-time world champions could turn things around before their next attempt to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.

“It’s a pattern I’ve seen when changing the shape of the team,” said Cheika, who made his name in Europe as coach of Irish province Leinster.

“The team probably just doesn’t believe in itself enough. I definitely believe in the way it’s headed. There’s not going to be any panic at our end.”

He added: “I am learning on the job and it’s been a great learning experience.

“I’ve got to know the players. Two-thirds of the squad I had never met before,” the Waratahs boss explained.

“I’ve also seen the positives and the negatives of the environment and what needs to be changed as well.”

Reflecting on Saturday’s match, Cheika said: “The first half was poor. We just didn’t get our game to flow around the ruck and couldn’t get clean ruck ball.

“The second half when we changed that, we were able to get cleaner ruck ball and had some really good moments in attack.

“If we could have passed a bit better, we would have been in front with five or six minutes to go because Rob Horne (on the receiving end of a poor ball from Israel Folau) had only to walk a few metres and he was going over to score.”

England’s two tries, each scored by No 8 Ben Morgan, both came off the back of scrums.

“Some scrums we weren’t good enough, out and out, and some scrums were definitely open to interpretation,” said Cheika of a match controlled by French referee Jerome Garces.

“Perhaps we are just a little bit too honest maybe in the scrum.”

Yet Australia remained in the contest thanks to second-half tries from fly-half Bernard Foley and replacement forward Will Skelton.

But Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper lamented how his side had been 13-3 behind at half-time.

“It sucks,” he said of the mood in Australia’s dressing room after the match.

“To have that felling, knowing we got close, is really disappointing. There are multiple opportunities we left out there.

“We can’t put ourselves in a position every week where we don’t start well and then have to try to catch up,” the openside flanker added.

“It would be nice to start a game and maintain a lead. That’s what we are going to have to start getting better at.”

For Hooper too the last few months have been challenging after the 23-year-old was handed the Australia captaincy by McKenzie in June following the season-ending injury to Stephen Moore.

“It’s been a massive learning curve but an enjoyable one,” Hooper said.

“There have been new challenges, different set-ups with staff, but I am happy as a leadership group how we’ve handled things this year.”

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