AUCKLAND – Australia’s confidence looking ahead to the Rugby World Cup was not dented after a 36-0 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday, according to coach Michael Cheika, because there was still plenty of improvement left on the side.
The Wallabies had entered the clash at Eden Park more confident than they had been in years after a near-perfect performance last week in Perth gave them a record 47-26 victory over New Zealand.
Tellingly, the side had not celebrated like it had just won the World Cup final, instead showing a steely and quiet determination that had many pundits suggesting it might be able to regain the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
Instead, the Wallabies met an All Blacks side determined to send a message to the rest of the rugby world they were not locked in a downward spiral as they begin their quest for a third successive Webb Ellis Trophy in Japan in five weeks.
While disappointed with the result, Cheika felt there was enough in the performance at Eden Park to suggest the side would get better ahead of its opener against Fiji on Sept. 21.
“Confidence won’t be dented,” Cheika told reporters.
“Obviously disappointment is there, back home everyone was pumped for the game, they were excited after game one and we’re so disappointed that we weren’t able to give those people what they expected at the end of the day with the result and make them proud of us.”
Cheika’s side has been enigmatic since it made a surprising run to the World Cup final four years ago and has won just 19 of its 46 tests since. Last year the Wallabies won just four of their 13 tests.
They were hammered by a second-string Springboks side in their opening test match this year, then sneaked past the Pumas in Brisbane before they turned the rugby world on its head with their performance last week.
Cheika added that their games this year were a sign they were improving and building some momentum towards the global showpiece in Japan.
“We’ve improved a lot since 2018,” he said.
“We have to take this on the chin and make sure that if this is going to happen to you, you understand one or two key things that you should take forward, so we can be successful at the World Cup.
“If you’d ask me how I was feeling yesterday, or before the game, (I would say) I’m feeling really good about the improvements we’ve made.
“As terribly disappointed as I am about this game. … I’ve got to put it into context, keep trying to build on those things and be resilient, don’t let this get you down.
“Yes, you’re going to be sad and disappointed, but suck it up and be ready for the next game and build into the World Cup, just how we’ve always planned to.”