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Cheika tells Aussies to toughen up

Michael Cheika has challenged Australia to "harden up" against England at Twickenham on Saturday to dispel any notion the Wallabies are a soft touch.

Australia's frustrated head coach admitted Ireland targeted his side's perceived lack of physical threat in Saturday's 26-23 defeat at the Aviva Stadium.

The former Leinster boss will not flinch from putting the Wallabies through the training wringer again this week, ahead of their final autumn Test.

Cheika believes the Wallabies have grown steadily grittier up front since he took the helm at the start of November, and challenged his players to prove it.

"I think when Ireland carried they thought they could outmuscle us a little bit more," said Cheika.

"It's up to us to harden up and shake off that image, I'm not sure why it's there but we've been very physical in the last few weeks.

"We've somehow got to shed that tag, and the tag that our scrum isn't strong as well.

"Our scrum was quite good on Saturday, but I don't think we got the pay we deserved from that."

Australia outscored Ireland three tries to two, Nick Phipps claiming a brace and Bernard Foley also crossing.

Wings Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe claimed Ireland's scores, with Johnny Sexton slotting 16 points with the boot.

Ireland held firm under increasing last-quarter pressure, edging to victory in a try-less second-half.

Cheika admitted Australia must add further steel to their silky backline touches in order to stand a chance of seeing off England in their final autumn Test.

"I think we decided the game in that there were a couple of chances we didn't finish off," said Cheika.

"It's about keeping your composure.

"It's about believing in the shape for a little bit longer.

"I thought Matt Toomua had a very, very good game and took a lot of yards against a defence that stood off him at points.

"He makes key decisions as the second pivot, and we'll need more of that (against England).

"It's hard to really like people then go out and smash them on Saturday, but that's rugby, and it's very disappointing to lose to them given the time I spent here (at Leinster).

"You want to beat them, because you like them and respect them, so it's hard, but that's the nature of rugby.

"I know everyone was lying to me when they said good luck.

"So it's been mixed emotions but it's really disappointing to lose this game."

Australia captain Michael Hooper echoed Cheika's frustrations in admitting the Wallabies must sharpen up in the tight exchanges.

The openside flanker rejected any notion of proving points to anyone outside of the Wallabies' camp, however.

"We're not trying to prove people wrong: we're trying to prove to each other we can put in a physical performance in the pack," said Hooper.

"We've got to be consistently strong at the scrum, that's the big aim.

"Physically we amped up there; we're improving, but what we're chasing is consistency."


From Belfast Telegraph