TWICKENHAM, UK: Australia go into their World Cup final clash tonight against arch-rivals New Zealand with coach Michael Cheika believing it will be a hyper-physical battle but one his side can dominate.
The 48-year-old - who has transformed the Wallabies in just a year in charge - said at Twickenham yesterday that past results including their win over the All Blacks this year were irrelevant.
“I have got a lot of belief in the team,” said Cheika on the eve of the final.
“We had a short space of time between the Rugby Championship and this. We know it’s going to be extremely physical and we have prepared accordingly.”
Cheika, whose exploits have earned him a nomination for World Rugby coach of the year, used typically colourful terms to dismiss the history between the two teams.
“They say if you look backwards you are only going to get a sore neck,” said Cheika.
“It really means nothing. What’s important is what happens in the next couple of days and the 80 minutes ahead of us. You see where you are and then see how the cards fall.”
Cheika, the only coach to have guided teams to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere continental club titles in Leinster and NSW Waratahs respectively, said he admired the All Blacks love of the physical confrontation.
“It’s pretty much their modus operandi, they have got great leg drive and I love that style of play,” said Cheika.
“We want to bring physicality to the game too. It is also how you bring it technically and why you are doing it. It will be an interesting part of the game.”
However, the Wallaby taskmaster sees room for improvement in one of the departments which has earned glowing reviews throughout the tournament, the backrow.
“I still think there is room for them (flankers Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper and No8 David Pocock) to get better,” said Cheika.
“They haven’t played that much together and they can still improve.”
Cheika was not sure whether he would get a good night’s sleep ahead of the final.
“You never know. Some nights you’re fine and sometimes before a game I’m edgy and I need to stay up,” said Cheika.
“It’s not going to make a difference if I don’t get any (sleep). I want to enjoy the build-up. It’s an opportunity to take.”
Drew Mitchell - created the decisive try for the Australians to seal a semi-final victory over Argentina - said it had been a boost to find that the Australian Rugby Union had flown back two players who dropped out of the squad earlier in the tournament because of injury and had returned to Australia.
“It was a really nice surprise when we went into breakfast to see Big Will (Skelton) and Cliff (Wycliff Palu) down there,” said Mitchell, who along with Toulon team-mate Matt Giteau benefited from the relaxation of the ARU rule which opened the way allowing players with over 60 caps playing abroad to be selected once again.
“There has been a real family feel about the team.”