World Cup: Why Aussie coach won't say 'All Blacks'
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has deflected suggestions Australia are refusing to use the All Blacks name.
The Australian Rugby Union has reportedly passed down an "unofficial edict" to its members and the Wallabies stating: "Please do not call them All Blacks".
The squad has avoided using the All Blacks name throughout their press conferences during the tournament and continue to ignore the All Blacks name on their official social media accounts.
It was a tactic employed by Sir Clive Woodward during the Lions tour of 2005 and while "New Zealand" certainly does sound less threatening than "All Blacks", it spectacularly backfired at the time.
France also used the tactic ahead of the quarter final, with coach Philippe Saint-Andre insisting that they were playing New Zealand and not the All Blacks.
When asked about it at their team naming, Cheika said it was a matter of personal preference.
"Read a bit about that. Having a bit of a crack at me that I don't say that for a certain reason. But if you notice, I never call Australia the Wallabies either.
"I'm really a bit old fashioned in that way. I think Australia's Australia, New Zealand's New Zealand and France is France and it's a battle between nations. There's no secret squirrel."
When asked if he could say "All Blacks" he did, but he then pretended he was possessed and yelled "poltergeist" across the media conference room at the team's base to much laughter.
"Maybe everyone's got a bit too much time on their hands. That's sorta making something out of nothing that one."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen also brushed off ARU's "edict". When asked about it at the All Blacks' press conference, his reply sparked laughter from the media.
"I didn't know that," Hansen said. "They can call us whatever they want. Being Aussies, they probably will."
That's that, then. Whereas Cheika appears intent on mind games, and some of the Australia media intent on grubby tabloid tricks in targeting skipper Richie McCaw, Hansen has gone the other way; a charm offensive rather than just plain offensive.
And so it was that Hansen praised the way Cheika has turned the Wallabies around since taking over from Ewen McKenzie's disastrous reign near the end of last year. What seemed to be an ill-disciplined rabble has been turned into a close unit travelling in the same direction - the Wallabies making a big point of signing off their social media posts with a "stronger as one" message.
When asked about the different paths the teams have taken to get to the final, Hansen, in charge of a team who have lost only three times since the last World Cup, said: "How we got here probably is irrelevant. The fact is we got here, and the same applies to Australia.
"Yeah, they've had a few bumps and adversity, but what I think Australia have done in the last 12 months, they've really had a look at themselves and made some really good changes.
"They have got real clarity in how they want to play the game. Michael Cheika and his crew can take a bow - they've done a great job.
"It's great for rugby. We need as many strong nations playing this game as possible, and Australia are one of the teams we'd expect to be strong all the time They seem to have got their house in order, and are playing accordingly."
While prop Wyatt Crockett was initially named on the reserves bench before aggravating his groin injury this morning, Hansen has been able to name a settled team for Sunday's match.
Loosehead prop Joe Moody retains his place in the starting team, with Ben Franks named as cover on the bench.
Earlier in the the tournament, Hansen was asked about the so-called Pool of Death, from which Australia have emerged, and he replied that if any team from that group - also including tier one nations England and Wales - as well as Fiji - won the tournament they would be worthy world champions such was their hard road to the final.
Today, however, he said simply that Australia's path to the final would count for little. What was important was that they were in it.
"They will have a massive hunger to get the job done, they've got a massive amount of talent," he said.
"You are in the final, you are where you want to be. They will bring plenty to the park, and we will have to bring plenty to match it."
Cheika appears to have quietly employed the no "All Blacks" tactic for quite some time. "I told the players the reality is the team that played against New Zealand last time out has probably earned itself another start for the tests," Cheika said in November 2014, ahead of the test against England.
It looks like only the All Blacks are deserving of this treatment. In the run-up to and during the semi-finals, the Wallabies were happy to refer to the Argentine side by their nickname Los Pumas.
Cheika on 'New Zealand'
November 1, 2014 - Ahead of England test
"I told the players the reality is the team that played against New Zealand last time out has probably earned itself another start for the tests," Cheika said.
"But a good performance, I won't lie, will put pressure on me to back that player up in the test next week."
July 28, 2015 - Best team in the world
"It's very obvious that New Zealand are the best team in the world, and I mean by a long way at this stage.
August 4, 2015 - Playing against them
"I just think if you get the opportunity to play for Australia in a test match here against New Zealand, someone is going to get a lucky call and it's an opportunity for that guy to make the most of it."
August 6. 2015 - Serious team
"I've only just started, I'm nowhere near reaching any type of mountain tops," Cheika said.
"Obviously by their number one ranking, there's no one more serious than New Zealand."
David Pocock said it
29th July 2015
"It's always a big occasion playing the All Blacks and he's been right up there for a very long time," Pocock said
- NZ Herald