By Nick Mulvenney
FUKUROICITY, Japan (Reuters) – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who has a poor record against England under Eddie Jones and an even poorer record in their off-field wrangles, lobbed the first jibe at his former club mate ahead of their expected World Cup quarter-final clash.
Australia have lost all six tests against England since Jones took over after the last World Cup and will face them in the last eight in Japan unless Uruguay can spring a sensational upset of Wales on Sunday.
Cheika has sometimes appeared exasperated by his one-time Randwick team mate’s mastery of the provocative media soundbite, especially during the June series of 2016 which England swept 3-0.
Asked after Australia’s win over Georgia on Friday whether the cancellation of England’s final pool match against France because of Typhoon Hagibis was the advantage Jones had suggested it was, Cheika fired back a tart response.
“I saw that he was saying that would be an advantage and that the typhoon gods were smiling on him,” Cheika said.
“So I suppose they better win — they’ve had the best preparation according to their coach, so they better go out there and win.”
Cheika was also asked whether England’s six-match winning streak would make them favourites for the expected quarter-final clash, which will take place in Oita next Saturday.
“I don’t know what relevance it will have — I don’t know if it’ll have any. I don’t really care to be honest,” he said.
“The only relevance is Saturday. That’s pretty much about it, it doesn’t matter who’s had a week off, who’s had a week on, who’s been resting, who hasn’t.
“It’ll all come down to what happens on kick-off.”
Cheika’s Australia knocked England out of their own tournament the last time the two teams met at the World Cup in 2015 but this Wallabies side does not appear to have the same cohesion as the one that reached the final four years ago.
The laboured 27-8 win over Georgia followed a comeback 39-21 victory over Fiji, a 29-25 tight loss to Wales and a straightforward 45-10 win against lowly-ranked Uruguay.
Cheika has tried to make a virtue out of his constant tinkering with the team in Japan but appears no closer to identifying his starter in the key flyhalf position.
Christian Lealiifano, Bernard Foley and Matt To’omua have all had a go with the latter wearing the number 10 shirt against the Georgians.
“I thought he was solid, he gave good direction, it’s his first time there since last year,” Cheika said.
“I thought he gave good direction to the forwards, his chat was good. He was solid in difficult conditions.
“Like every week, I’ll sit down with the selectors, look at the pros and cons of each player according to the team we’re playing that week, and look at the best combination to do that.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)