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Why Michael Cheika's epic and effective halftime Wallabies spray was not a good sign

By Ben Kimber

The worry is that this appears to be all that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has left.

He lives for adversity, and is never stronger or more at home than when his back is against the wall.

Former Wallaby Steve Hoiles told us exactly that in The Rugby Ruckus two weeks ago, that we would see Michael Cheika lift in that scenario.

But what has it taken to get us there?

Cheika clearly blistered the paint off the Wallabies dressing room walls after quite simply one of the most abjectly poor 40 minute performances I've seen from the Wallabies, though there have been a few contenders the last two years.

 

While you have to acknowledge the sharp play of the Pumas early, for the Wallabies this appeared to be turning into an embarrassing full stop at the end of a very short, unprintable sentence describing their tournament.

 

Some Rugby Ruckus listeners, Wallabies fans, even went so far as to say they would be comfortable with a Pumas win as that would ensure the change that appears much needed.

 

The team has looked rudderless, disinterested, and routinely below par, even in victory in TRC, and against the Pumas this morning, flat passing, hard running and sharp feet were tearing them apart.

 

In response in that first half they were limp.

 

For weeks my Rugby Ruckus co-host Morgan Turinui has been outlining the simple way the lack of straight running and drive around the edges has meant the Wallabies side to side play has been largely ineffective.

 

Then in the second half they made us proud again. Strong carries, support play and drive. Passes that stuck. Points flowing.

 

When Izack Rodda charged down a clearing kick and then Hooper popped the ball back to him to race over, we were cheering again and the comeback was on.

 

At halftime Cheika had had to make clear, in no uncertain terms, exactly what should have been obvious for the team from kickoff.

 

What should have been clear to them in every game of TRC this year. The missing planning and execution turned up.

 

But one great half of footy cannot be used as a crutch to ignore the ongoing lame state of the Wallabies defence, attack and belief.

 

Cheika's loyalty will surely be tested now because the noises for change in this Wallabies structure should not be silenced.

 

Change is clearly still needed, despite the impressive second half and record TRC comeback. We can't celebrate the second half performance without acknowledging the malaise continuing in the first.

 

The team has not been playing for Cheika. He is supposed to be the motivating coach, the one the players will go into battle for. Instead they have been patchy, and listless.

 

What they showed in the second half is that they are capable.

 

What Raelene Castle and Rugby Australia must now ask is why has that ability been so squandered under Cheika the last two years.

 

At a minimum, a long hard look must be taken at both the attack and defensive coaching, with Nathan Grey and Stephen Larkham in the cross hairs

 

If Cheika is as committed to the cause as he claims to be, and there is no reason to doubt that, then that commitment must include honest reflection and change.

 

We can't wait until we're at the bottom of the heap before we start punching back.

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