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Cheika to wield Wallaby axe after Scottish loss

World Rugby

SYDNEY – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has demanded greater urgency from his players and vowed team changes in the wake of their spluttering Test defeat to Scotland.

The Australians gave away two tries and could not make up the leeway despite dominating territory and possession to go down 24-19 to the resilient Scots in Sydney on Saturday.

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Coach Michael Cheika says he wants guys with attitude in his Wallaby team. Photo: EPA

The loss will have ramifications with an imminent slump to sixth in the next world rankings – behind Ireland, Scotland and South Africa – the Wallabies’ lowest position since early 2015.

The Scottish defeat comes against the backdrop of a demoralising Super Rugby season for Australian teams and the negativity over the drawn-out Sanzaar saga to cull three teams from next year’s competition.

Cheika has signalled changes following the chastening defeat for the next Test against Six Nations strugglers Italy in Brisbane on Saturday.

“I’d say so, I’d say there’d be a few,” Cheika told reporters after Saturday’s loss. “It’s about being more urgent to the game, you’ve got to make it happen – it’s not just going to happen for you.

“You’ve got to have guys with that attitude. You eliminate all the excuses, and you just stay at it and make the team come there.”

Captain Michael Hooper and the rest of the Wallabies after losing to Scotland. Photo: EPA


Cheika, who cut a frustrated figure watching the game from the coach’s box in the stands, said the Wallabies were “half-a-yard away all match”.

Compounding the loss was the Wallabies’ self-inflicted wounds during a dreadful opening half. The Scots led 17-12 at halftime with both their tries coming off Australian mistakes.

Centre Duncan Taylor swooped on a poor Will Genia pass and flyhalf Finn Russell charged down Genia’s clearing kick for another try.

Only two tries from Israel Folau – one from a long ball from Bernard Foley and the other when the athletic fullback soared spectacularly to snatch Foley’s pinpoint cross-kick – kept the Wallabies going in the first half.

Yet despite the intensity ratcheting up and Australia hitting the front at 19-17 midway through the second half, Scotland roared back with a magnificent try by openside flank Hamish Watson.

Winger Lee Jones hurdled a tackler and linked with Taylor to give Watson clear passage to the tryline, and the Scots held on to their advantage to the final whistle.

Scotland captain John Barclay lifts the trophy after beating Australia. Photo: EPA


Skipper John Barclay said Scotland are learning from their agonising defeats and are better equipped at closing out tight Tests.

Barclay, the 62-capped blindside flanker from Llanelli’s Scarlets, said Scotland’s skills have been underplayed and they were making their presence felt in international rugby.

“It will give us confidence. You cannot deny the fact that we’ve been on the wrong side of a couple of these against the Aussies for the last couple of years, and it was nice to close one out,” Barclay told reporters after Saturday’s triumph.

“But in this year’s Six Nations, we closed out a couple of really important games, tight games against Ireland and Wales, so I think we are getting better at closing out games.

“The important thing is that you learn from the close defeats. Everyone always talks about the Scots being brave, but I don’t think we speak enough about the skills the guys have.

“Look at the tries we’re scoring, I think it’s brilliant, and I think it’s underplayed at times.”

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