Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has seen Michael Cheika make his mark on teams in Dublin, Paris and Sydney, and the one constant he expects to have been passed on to the Wallabies by their new boss is a collective work ethic.
Cheika brings Australia to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday less than a month after taking the reins of his national team following the resignation of Ewen McKenzie, yet in wins over the Barbarians and Wales followed by last weekend’s defeat to France, Schmidt has already seen the foundations for success the Aussie instilled at Leinster, Stade Francais and the Waratahs.
“They’ve got a workaholic defence,” said Schmidt, who followed Cheika into the Leinster hot seat in 2010. “One of the things Cheiks does really well is he gets them to work and he gets them to work collectively.
“I don’t think I’ve seen someone work as hard as (scrum-half Nick) Phipps in behind the line, (fly-half Bernard) Foley and the wingers work incredibly hard, whether it is Adam Ashley Cooper or (Joe) Tomane or whoever they decide to put up against us.
“They’re going to work very, very hard in the backfield, so we’re not going to get a lot of space.
“They get off the line hard with guys like (Tevita) Kuridrani coming forward, Matt Hooper coming forward, the young kid (Sean) McMahon coming forward and (Ben) McCalman; James Slipper’s a super defender getting off the line.
“They do certainly put a lot of pressure on you. (Cheika) almost builds that real collective effort as part of his culture in a team and it is a real strength for him. It’s a strength for the teams that he coaches.”
It is not just defensively that Cheika’s Wallabies will keep Schmidt and his coaches occupied in the build-up to Saturday’s game. Containing the Australians offensively is no small feat either, even though the way France contained their powerhouse full-back Israel Folau impressed the Ireland head coach.
“The French put a pretty good package together. They just targeted him. It’s a risk because they have such good players either side of him.
“I don’t know how much of Kuridrani you’ve seen, but if you go too hard at Folau then Kuridrani will open you up or (Christian) Lealiifano will or Matt Toomua. And I thought Foley broke the line really well towards the end of the game. So they’ve got guys across the pitch. It could be Quade Cooper, it could be (Will) Genia.
“Up front I thought Michael Hooper was unbelievably good the last time he came here. That across the board makes it a massive challenge for us.
“If you don’t shut them down, they are very, very dangerous.”
Schmidt will not have too much time to dwell on last Sunday’s comprehensive defeat of Georgia, a six-try, 49-7 drubbing of the tier-two rugby nation executed by a team showing 13 changes from the previous week’s victory over South Africa. In using 32 different players across two matchday squads so far this month, Ireland have deepened the strength of their squad able to stay the course at Test level, all important with a condensed pool campaign around the corner at next September’s 2015 World Cup.
“It does give you confidence, even seeing what happened last week. That might be a few other guys who might be in the mix and today gives you a little bit more confidence again. There were some guys who did a really good job. I would include particularly the two starting debutants (Dave Foley and Dominic Ryan) in that. They did a super job in a pretty physical environment,” he added, underling the point that hard work is not the preserve of the Wallabies.
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