Michael Cheika (Gallo)
Twickenham – Australia coach Michael Cheika said the only way for the rest of international rugby to keep pace with world champions New Zealand was by sheer dogged persistence.
The All Blacks became the first team to win back-to-back World Cups, and the first to lift the trophy three times, when they beat Cheika’s Wallabies 34-17 in a thrilling Twickenham final.
“You just stay at it: keep trying to improve, keep testing yourself again,” said Cheika.
“We’re lucky we get to play them regularly and test ourselves.
“You’ve got to mark yourself against the best and I think we’ve made good ground over the last 12 months.”
He added: We’ve got to keep growing. I told the players afterwards ‘Don’t be counting down lads, this is just the start’.”
Cheika only took charge of Australia a year ago after former coach Ewen McKenzie resigned with the team riven by splits and off-field scandal.
And the speed of their progress surprised even their current boss.
“We’ve been really honest with the way we’ve done things,” said former Leinster and Stade Francais coach Cheika.
“It came pretty quick as a group for us though, and I think we’ve handled it well.
“I’ve been very, very proud of the team, there’s not much more I could have asked them to do.
“And we came pretty close tonight, we swung the momentum back even though the first-half didn’t go our way.
“They wanted to stay in the battle until the end, and they did.”
Cheika, 48, said a World Cup final appearance was the last thing on his mind when he was parachuted into the Wallabies’ job.
“I didn’t really think about that back then, I was just a bit surprised that I was asked to do it,” he said.
“But then as we sat down and started to hatch a plan you have to believe.
“And it’s disappointing to come up short: the goal wasn’t to make the final, it was to win.”
Cheika was frustrated tournament officials would not allow Australia’s backroom staff to stand on the field alongside the team for the pre-match national anthems.
“We wanted to go out and sing the national anthem with the players, the coaches, but World Rugby wouldn’t let us,” said Cheika.
“That’s neither here nor there overall, though.”
And he was also unhappy with a newspaper photographer for taking shots of tactics notes carried by Cheika and scrum guru Mario Ledesma during Australia’s final practice session on Friday, although he stressed they had no effect on Saturday’s outcome.