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Michael Cheika: England Are "Unified" By Strategy Of Late Hits On Half-Backs

Michael Cheika: England Are "Unified" By Strategy Of Late Hits On Half-Backs
By Mikey Traynor

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has stoked the fires ahead of this weekend's meeting between England and Australia at Twickenham by claiming that Eddie Jones' side deliberately target opposition scrum-halves and fly-halves with late hits.

Most Irish rugby fans would be nodding in agreement as Johnny Sexton came in for some extremely questionable treatment when the sides clashed in the final game of the 2017 Six Nations, with Mauro Itoje in particular exhibiting timing similar to that of Dublin Bus throughout the game, and this was something that Cheika wanted out in the press ahead of the game.

The former Leinster coach claimed that there is 'so much footage' of late hits from England players on opposition 9s and 10s, and stressed that he had told his players that they must challenge them head on to have any success.

England are a big, powerful side and they will try to bully us around. They try to bully us at the scrum, the lineout and the ruck and then they niggle, trying to get into our half-back after he passes and the 10 after he passes. There is so much footage of that.

The fact they are unified behind that strategy means we are going to have to look them in the eye and take them on if we are going to be able to resist that.

If you get away with it, yes [it is legal]. I have not seen the referee and I will not be highlighting it to him. I’m not complaining: it is part of the game and you know it will happen when you take the ball to the line.

Cheika knows what he's doing there, mentioning that the opposition utilise the 'dark arts' to their advantage so that it is at the front of the fans' (and indeed the referee's) mind when the game is set to kick off.

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Eddie Jones was never going to let it slide without a response, and he suggested that the Aussie boss' comments showed a lack of respect to the referee in what was also a clear attempt to gently influence the referee's thinking by way of a counter-argument.

Obviously they like the media more than the referee. The referee is an intelligent guy and I’m sure he won’t be influenced by comments made in the press. I have coached over 100 Tests and every Test I have had a meeting with the referee and it is a sign of respect that you want to know what he wants from the game and what we want and it is a mutual exchange of information for the benefit of the game.

We’ve played four games against Australia, there have been great referees in each of those four games. We play by the rules and are happy to stand by that. [Cheika] obviously feels the referees haven’t done a good job so possibly he should be taking that up with the referee not the media.

Contrary to Cheika's claim, both coaches are set to meet with referee Ben O’Keeffe before the game where they will get a chance to air any concerns ahead of kick-off.

You get the feeling that there will be an extra bit of attention on the timing of England's tackling on Bernard Foley and Will Genia, if not by the referee, then by everyone else.

[via The Guardian]

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