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Michael Cheika demands improvement in the pursuit of World Cup kings New Zealand

Australia boss Michael Cheika believes the only way to catch rugby's greatest-ever side the All Blacks is through a dogmatic battle for improvement.

New Zealand cemented their status as the greatest team in rugby history by becoming the first side to retain the World Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.

The All Blacks prevailed 34-17, captain Richie McCaw becoming the first man ever to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice.

Cheika vowed Australia will keep plugging away to close the chasm that now exists between New Zealand, and everyone else.

"You just stay at it: keep trying to improve, keep testing yourself again," said Cheika.

"We're lucky we get to play them regularly and test ourselves.

"You've got to mark yourself against the best and I think we've made good ground over the last 12 months.

"We've got to keep growing.

"I told the players afterwards 'Don't be counting down lads, this is just the start'.

"We want to do really good things for Australian rugby going forward.

"That's something that we want to keep doing.

"The more we test ourselves against South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, and against the Northern Hemisphere teams on tours, the better we'll get."

"We've been really honest with the way we've done things.

"It came pretty quick as a group for us though, and I think we've handled it well.

"I've been very, very proud of the team, there's not much more I could have asked them to do.

"And we came pretty close tonight, we swung the momentum back even though the firstl-half didn't go our way.

Former Leinster and Stade Francais boss Cheika only assumed the Wallabies reins a year ago.

The no-nonsense coach jumped in to clean up a torrid mess at the end of the Ewen McKenzie era, quickly ending recrimination and in-fighting.

Cheika has transformed Australia's scrum, their attitude and wide play, and deserves huge credit for carrying the Wallabies back to the top of the world game.

The 48-year-old admitted he never considered a World Cup final on taking the Wallabies' reins.

"I didn't really think about that back then, I was just a bit surprised that I was asked to do it," said Cheika.

"But then as we sat down and started to hatch a plan you have to believe.

"And it's disappointing to come up short: the goal wasn't to make the final, it was to win.

"I know many people didn't expect us to, but believing has to start somewhere.

"One person starts, and you get another person, another person and another person.

"And if you get a crowd you can do things if you start believing.

"Lots of small things, no one light bulb or anything like that.

"Just small things and people doing those small things every day."

Cheika admitted he was frustrated not to be able to line up alongisde the Wallabies players for the national anthem on Saturday.

The former Waratahs boss has previously stood alongside his charges in the middle of the pitch for the anthem in Rugby Championship matches.

Cheika said tournament organisers would not allow them to take to the field, with World Rugby confirming competition rules forbid that from happening.

Cheika hailed his players from fighting back into the contest from 21-3 down to 21-17, before New Zealand pulled away again.

"We wanted to go out and sing the national anthem with the players, the coaches, but World Rugby wouldn't let us," said Cheika.

"That's neither here nor there overall, though.

"We changed the momentum of the game at 21-17.

"Even when we got seven points behind you get a try there and we're right back in the hunt.

"We could easily have gone home then, and said 'okay we're sweet', but the heart and the courage in the team that's been built and will last us going forward meant they didn't want to do that.

"They wanted to stay in the battle until the end, and they did."

A keen-eyed photographer had snapped Cheika and scrum coach Mario Ledesma with tactics notes on display at Friday's captain's run training session.

Cheika insisted that tactics leak had no impact on the contest.

"The context, what was in it, that was no biggie," said Cheika.

"There were no super tactics in there.

"It is a little bit disingenuous, you open yourselves up and someone focuses in on that."


From Belfast Telegraph