Cheika applauds Australia defence after battling into final against New Zealand

Australia coach Michael Cheika hailed his side’s defence despite the Wallabies scoring four tries on their way to a 29-15 victory against Argentina at Twickenham to set up a mouth-watering Rugby World Cup final clash against New Zealand.

The Wallabies sealed safe passage to next Saturday’s final against the All Blacks at the home of English rugby thanks to wing Adam Ashley-Cooper’s hat-trick of tries, lock Rob Simmons’ score and nine points from the boot of fly-half Bernard Foley.

But it was their ability to prevent Argentina from scoring a try that impressed Cheika the most.

“I think we improved, we left the game a bit open which really suited them,” he said on ITV1.

Cheika pictured before the Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham. Photo: David Davies/PA
Cheika pictured before the Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham. Photo: David Davies/PA

“Initially we kept it a bit more structured, which suited us, but I’m really happy with the lads’ defence.

“They’re a very strong attacking team. They tore Ireland apart last week (in the quarter-finals), we had to work hard to stop them scoring a try.”

Five Nicolas Sanchez penalties kept Argentina in the contest for long periods but they were repelled time and time again by a stubborn Wallabies defence, before Ashley-Cooper’s third score with nine minutes left and Cheika raised their disciplined approach in the second half.

He said: “Penalties are a part of the game. We gave away too many in the first half and we tried to rectify that in the second half, which we did a little bit but we still gave away a few too many.

“Overall I’m happy we scored four tries. I think we can improve again – that’s really important now.”

Next week’s Twickenham encounter will be the first time Australia and the All Blacks will have locked horns in international rugby’s biggest game and Cheika insisted he had not been thinking beyond today’s encounter.

“I haven’t even thought about it (the final). All we’ve been thinking about is this game,” he added.

“Now tonight we can think we’ve given ourselves the opportunity to play in a World Cup final and we’ll work out how we’re going to do it against a pretty dynamic team.”

Back-row forward David Pocock was integral to Australia’s colossal defensive effort and he admitted he and his team-mates had been run close by an Argentinian side that had lit up the tournament.

“(The game was) incredibly tough. Credit to Argentina – it was exactly what we thought it was going to be,” he said.

“It was physical, both teams looked to use the ball and right to the 80th minute everyone was out on their feet.

“It was a pretty tough contest around the park, obviously set pieces and rucks were target areas for both teams.

“We’re very pleased with the win and we’re going to enjoy it tonight and then get stuck into recovery.”

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