Rugby | Michael Cheika scoffs at Steve Hansen underdog claims

Sydney – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has scoffed at All Blacks
coach Steve Hansen’s suggestion that the Wallabies would start their Bledisloe
opener as favourites. 

The Wallabies emerged victorious 23-18 the last time the
sides met in the third and final Bledisloe of last year, breaking a six-game
winless drought stretching back to 2015. 

However, the All Blacks have won 15 of the previous 19
encounters between the sides, while New Zealand Super Rugby franchises continue
to dominate their Australian counterparts. 

And Cheika believes Hansen’s underdog claims are laughable
and that not even his own players would believe it all at the end of the day. 

“He’s a great coach but I think he may have had that one
wrong because I don’t think many of his players would believe it to be honest,”
Cheika told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

“I don’t think it’s very realistic. It’s pretty irrelevant
at the end of the day.” 

Meanwhile, Cheika expects Beauden Barrett to start at flyhalf
and believes that his importance to the All Blacks cause is second to none,
despite growing admiration for Richie Mo’unga. 

Mo’unga had a fantastic Super Rugby season, guiding the
Crusaders to a ninth title but Cheika believes two-time World Player of the
Year Barrett is still very much atop the All Black pecking order. 

“It doesn’t really concern me I suppose but what I do know
is this – Beauden Barrett has been the best player in world rugby for the last
two years in a row and he’s an exceptional player,” Cheika told reporters in
Sydney on Friday. 

“I’ve coached teams that have felt his wrath personally and
his skill and ability.


“There’s no doubting that Mo’unga – he’s a class player and
a good young fella … but Barrett is class and I think there’s no doubt he’s a
player the All Blacks value very much and he’ll be out there next Saturday.”

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