IRB Rugby World Cup
Michael Cheika unfazed by Clive Woodward's barbs about Wallabies' front-rowers
September 15, 2015
Australia arrive at Heathrow Airport

Michael Cheika has dismissed stinging criticism of the Wallabies' props from England's Rugby World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Woodward said this week in the UK media that Cheika's side had no chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time, citing a lack of top-quality front-rowers as the team's biggest problem.

Australia must beat England and Wales to have any realistic chance of topping Pool A and booking a quarter-final spot in a group that also contains Fiji and Uruguay, and Woodward said memories of their struggles at Twickenham last year, when England's forwards dominated in a 26-17 victory, would still be fresh in the minds of the hosts when the sides met on October 3.

Australia's Michael Cheika speaks to the press during a Wallabies media session, MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel, Bath, September 15, 2015
Michael Cheika © Getty Images

But Cheika said he was happy to let other teams think what they wanted to about his side.

"From a perception point of view I know what I am working on and thinking," Cheika said in Bath, where the team will be based ahead of their opening clash with Fiji in Cardiff on Wednesday.

"I think Clive Woodward said there were four or five club rugby props that would make the Australian team before our props so I think the perception is still there [about us]. But it's up to the opponents to think they can push us around but let's see if they can do it on game day."

ESPN is proud to announce an exclusive 1-hour special - Cheika's Wallabies: Hope of a Nation - with a repeat broadcast on ESPN Thu Sept 17 at 9pm AEST (9pm NZ). ESPNscrum's leading rugby expert Greg Growden goes one-on-one with the Wallabies coach in this exclusive special that gives a rare insight into the intriguing personality of Australia's head coach.

So concerned was Cheika about his pack after the end of year tour in 2014, when the team lost to France, England and Ireland, that he added legendary former Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma to his coaching staff. The 84-capped Puma is a veteran of four World Cups and Cheika believes the improved showing of his forwards in recent wins against the All Blacks and Argentina is a sign of his influence.

"He's been very good from a philosophical point of view and what we want our scrum to be like and also our set-pieces and driving mauls as well," Cheika said. "We acknowledge we needed to improve. It's our consistency more than anything and we've been working hard on that. But now we need to show that the fruits of our labour are borne out on the field."

Cheika also believes the presence of 1999 World Cup winners Nathan Grey and Stephen Larkham on the coaching staff adds to the positive mentality he's building among the 31-man squad.

"Self-belief is very important but that is not borne out of what's happened in `91 and `99," he said. "The fact we have two coaches that were there in `99 helps from an experience point of view, even though it's a very different tournament now. It adds something from a mental side of things ... how you deal with things on a game to game basis, what the feelings are like and you just draw on a bit of that."

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