Challenge of a lifetime: Cheika talks task ahead
Michael Cheika rates trying to turn around the Wallabies' fortunes against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday probably the greatest challenge of his coaching career.
The 42-8 mauling they copped from the All Blacks in Sydney last Saturday provoked a savage backlash in the media and from angry fans already disappointed by the 3-0 home series loss to England.
Cheika says the criticism is well justified but it's his job to ensure his players don't get dragged down by it and use it as motivation instead.
Also facing big selection issues, Cheika said he had been focusing on addressing defensive and line-out problems which dogged the Wallabies last weekend and he needed to ensure the team was more physical this week.
Asked where the challenge ranked in his coaching career, he said: "Probably the biggest. "It's a big stage and it's a big challenge for us.
"The criticism from the performance (last weekend) is very warranted no doubt about that and when there's a lot of that talk in your head you start to get weighed down by it.
"(The players) are feeling pretty terrible about it, so we've got to get them back up into a situation where that's driving them to do something better this weekend.
"I know a lot of people are going to think that the same result is going to happen and we understand that, so it's up to us to prove otherwise.”
Cheika dismissed criticism of his selection of veteran backs Will Genia, Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper, brought back from France under the "Giteau rule” which he got introduced last year.
"I thought Will Genia was one of the players who did stand up in that game,” Cheika said.
"Giteau played for about a minute or two so that's a convenient thing for people to say and look for a reason.
"The reality is that the Australian team didn't play well that day.
"Since I've been here, win or lose, we've always been pretty true to our identity and that's the first time I don't think that we have and we've got to make that right.
"Sometimes things go pear-shaped and it doesn't work out how you want it to and that's when you've got to stand up really.
"It hasn't gone this year how we wanted it to, but we're not going to go and cry with our thumb in our mouth back to mummy.
"We're going to get in there and fight and get ourselves sorted out and that may be enough.
"It may not be. But that's what we're definitely going to do this weekend.”
Cheika reiterated he was weighing options at inside centre following the loss through injuries last weekend of Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne.
The Aussie coach said he could recall the ball-running Samu Kerevi, who played in the first two Tests of the England series in June, or opt for a second playmaker in either Quade Cooper or the uncapped Reece Hodge.