Michael Cheika is reluctant to heed fresh calls to shift Israel Folau to the centres as the Wallabies travel to Wellington striving to arrest their worst losing streak in more than a decade.
The Wallabies haven’t won a match since Cheika was named world coach of the year last November, while Saturday night’s humiliating 42-8 loss to the All Blacks was Australia’s heaviest defeat on home soil in 113 years.
Cheika is taking full accountability for the World Cup finalists’ alarming fall from grace, but has also placed his under-performing troops on notice that none is safe from the axe as they regroup to face New Zealand on Saturday.
“I’ll have a look at the whole team as far as the set-up’s concerned and once we’ve had a good review of the match, both today and tomorrow, give the opportunities to the players that want to stand up and put themselves on the line for Australia in Wellington,” said Cheika on Sunday.
Major strike weapon Folau had little opportunity or impact from fullback, prompting further calls to play him at outside centre where incumbent Tevita Kuridrani had a poor night and has failed to impress this season.
But Cheika indicated it was unlikely.
“He’d be an option, yeah. We’ll have a look at it,” said Cheika. “He’s always in the selection mix that way. But I’ve always seen Israel as in the fullback role and that’s been his main role and it’s probably somewhere I’d like to see him keep playing.”
Tournament-ending injuries Matt Giteau, who suffered a broken ankle in Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener, and Rob Horne, who likely requires a shoulder reconstruction, will likely force Cheika to at least find a new inside centre.
Matt Toomua, who replaced Giteau on a disastrous night at ANZ Stadium, must pass a series of concussion tests before being considered for the return bout in New Zealand, where the Wallabies must win for the first time in 15 years to keep their Bledisloe Cup hopes alive.
With Giteau and Toomua used as second playmakers, Cheika said Quade Cooper was a definite inside centre option, along with rookie Reece Hodge and fellow squad member Samu Kerevi.
Meanwhile All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has explained why it took five days for the New Zealand Rugby Union to come forward about the alleged bugging of the world champions’ meeting room in Sydney.
Police are investigating the delay after a listening device was found last Monday hidden in a chair at the Intercontinental hotel in Double Bay during a routine security check.
It wasn’t reported to police until Saturday, hours before the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.
Superintendent Brad Hodder said “any delay in any investigation is always tough but we’ll look at that information”.
Hansen said All Blacks management decided it was best to wait for NZRU chief Steve Tew to arrive in Sydney from the Rio Olympics before taking the matter further.
“The reason that we didn’t go there straight away was because we went through a process with the hotel and our CEO was away at the Olympics,” Hansen said after the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 42-8 in a record-breaking performance at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
“He arrived and he needed to be spoken to and fully briefed on it. Once he was fully briefed, he said `righto we need to take this to the police’”
As an ex-policeman himself, Hansen said he could understand authorities being frustrated.
“Whether it was right or wrong, it’s what’s happened so we all have to accept that and deal with it,” he said.
Supt Hodder said police didn’t have a theory about who planted the device - and nor does Hansen or the All Blacks.
“Lots of people are speculating about who’s done it and who hasn’t and I don’t think that’s fair because no one knows who’s done it and obviously there’s plenty of people who could do it,” Hansen said.
“So I think until the enquiry’s done by the police, we should sit back and that’s it, let them do their job and certainly not speculate on who planted it there because no one knows.
“We certainly don’t know.”
Wallabies coach Cheika said his team wasn’t bothered by the explosive revelation either.
“I don’t think anyone accused us of putting it there, did they? It’s got nothing to do with us,” Cheika said.
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