Cheika: We'll have our work cut out against Irish
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Australia will face the sternest of challenges against Ireland next Saturday as they bid to maintain their quest to emulate the 1984 Wallabies and achieve a Grand Slam over the Home Nations, said coach Michael Cheika.
The 49-year-old - who picked up a demoralised Australian side and within a year guided them to the 2015 World Cup Final - has overseen victories over two of the Home Nations Wales and Scotland as well as France.
However, he admitted Monday two fine performances by the Irish against world champions New Zealand suggested his team were in for a tough day at the office.
Ireland registered a first-ever victory over the All Blacks in Chicago followed by a close run 9-21 defeat on Saturday.
"I haven't actually seen the games yet," said Cheika.
"It's not my job too, but the other coaches have.
"I've been doing my part of the job which is to concentrate on our team.
"I have watched the highlights and from the look of those they were good encounters and we have our work cut out for us as they got closer to the All Blacks in those two games than we did in the three we played against New Zealand.
"New Zealand are the standard bearer for the game at the moment. Although with a couple of decisions and different bounces of the ball in Chicago....."
Cheika, who expected second choice mercurial flyhalf, Quade Cooper, to return to training on Monday, said he had instilled in the less experienced players in the squad the difficulty of the task facing them.
"We've got new lads and I've told them how difficult it is to win over here in the Northern Hemisphere," said Cheika.
Their sides are buoyed by their crowds and it is a real challenge for all the Southern Hemisphere sides.
"We've all had tough games and looking ahead to Saturday for us it is all about resetting at zero and saying this is going to be the most difficult game of the tour."
Cheika, who knows Ireland well having had a successful spell as coach of Irish province Leinster guiding them to the first of their three European Cup victories in 2009, said he would be looking to the players he allowed to miss the France match - like influential flank Michael Hooper - to get back into the swing of things.
"I wouldn't say they had a week of de luxe relaxing with their feet up on the table," said Cheika.
"They had some time off and some of it working, but all of them have had a big load this year.
"Last week wasn't about giving guys a break but giving others an opportunity.
"They will be quick smart back into training and into the swing of things."
Cheika, who also guided the Waratahs to the Super Rugby title in 2014 making him the only coach to win both hemisphere's most prestigious regional competitions, said one player who will have to be watched come Saturday is injury-plagued flank Sean O'Brien, who made an outstanding return to the Ireland side against New Zealand on Saturday.
"He's a good lad and I won't lie about it I tried to sign him when I moved to Stade Francais.
"He is a quality player and I feel for him a bit because of the number of injuries he has had.
"But like a thoroughbred racehorse who comes back from injury and wins every time he returns he plays like he hasn't been away. He is straight in there."