Michael Cheika said the "real physical business" was about to begin for Australia, after they marked the start of their European tour with a dramatic 40-36 win over the Barbarians in his first game as Wallaby coach.
The weekend’s match at Twickenham was a non-cap international, but next weekend marks the first of four full Tests in as many weeks — when Australia face Wales, rivals at next year’s World Cup in England. at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Once that is out of the way, Cheika’s men travel to Paris, then Dublin and finally return to Twickenham to finish off with the little matter of Stuart Lancaster’s England — also in the same 2015 World Cup ‘group of death’.
At least the hard-fought victory over a spirited Barbarians team gave the Wallabies a tough warm-up, as well as turning their attention back to on-field action, following the furore surrounding the Kurtley Beale text picture scandal that led to the resignation of former Australia coach Ewen McKenzie.
Cheika, though, was well aware of what was coming up against a Wales side desperate to end a run of nine defeats by Australia.
“Wales will lift the physicality and aggression side of things considerably,” Cheika said. “That’s when the real physical business will start in earnest, the guys know that.
“We know how tough that will be, so being pushed so close by the Barbarians might be a good thing. Warren Gatland has done a great job as (Wales) coach and we know they love a battle and get involved in the tough stuff. The hits will be harder so we must be prepared for it.”
Reflecting on the weekend’s match, Waratahs boss Cheika added: “It must have been very entertaining to watch, though I was hoping for a bit of an easier time in my seat.
“We needed to start the tour well but I was hoping not to have to get out of my seat during the game. Sadly, I did a few times!,” said the 47-year-old Cheika, whose coaching CV includes leading Leinster to their first European Cup title in 2009. ”
Sam Carter, Benn Robinson, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Sean McMahon all scored tries for the Wallabies who had trailed 22-21 but then led 40-22 before almost being upstaged by compatriot Nick Cummins.
Barbarians coach John Kirwan, the All Blacks great, praised his side for taking Australia right the way to the end.
“To push the Wallabies so close with this team was a fantastic effort,” said former wing Kirwan, a member of the New Zealand side that won the inaugural World Cup on home soil in 1987.
“All the guys had fun, enjoyed themselves and it showed on the field.”
Scorers for Barbarians: Tries: Halai, Thomson, Saili, Cummins, Boshoff. Cons: Slade 2, Boshoff 2. Pens: Slade.
Scorers for Australia: Tries: Carter, Robinson, Kuridrani, Horne, Foley, McMahon. Cons: Cooper 3, Foley 2.
BARBARIANS: Nanai-Williams, Halai, de Jongh, Saili, Cummins, Slade, Cubelli, Stevens, Parsons, Ta’avao, Bird, Kellock, Thomson, Todd, Luatua.
Replacements: Tuculet for de Jongh (59), Boshoff for Slade (69), Pretorius for Cubelli (58), du Toit for Stevens (50), Schwalger for Parsons (50), Adriaanse for Ta’avao (51), Brussow for Thomson (52).
AUSTRALIA: Folau, Speight, Kuridrani, Toomua, Horne, Cooper, Genia, Robinson, Faingaa, Alexander, Carter, Horwill, Higginbotham, Hodgson, McCalman.
Replacements: LealiIfano for Toomua (65), Foley for Cooper (55), Slipper for Robinson (54), Hanson for Faingaa (55), Kepu for Alexander (60), Skelton for Carter (58), McMahon for Higginbotham (21)
Ref: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
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