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Under-fire Cheika hits out at critics

Under-pressure Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has hit out at his "dramatic" critics and insisted his working relationship with new boss Scott Johnson would be "straightforward".
The 51-year-old declared "it doesn't matter how many bullets people want to throw at me, I still love it," adding that Australia can take advantage of being labelled underdogs at this year's World Cup after an abysmal 2018.
Cheika survived the ax in December after Australia won just four of 13 tests last year -- their worst campaign in decades.
But the head coach's powers were diluted by having to answer to Johnson, who has been recruited from Scotland to take up a new director of rugby role later this month.
He must also work with a three-man selection panel -- himself, Johnson and the recently-appointed Michael O'Connor.
Cheika had not spoken publicly since Johnson was recruited but broke his silence in a video posted on the Wallabies' Facebook page on Saturday evening.
"It's a game you love and it doesn't matter how many bullets people want to throw at me, I still love it," he said. "That propensity to be dramatic, or over-dramatic, I am not really sure where that came from. Maybe there are a few people out there that need that to survive in their own world, everything has got to be drama.
"Truth is important and it usually comes out in the end," he added cryptically.
Cheika said he had spoken with Johnson but did not meet him during a recent trip to Britain to watch Six Nations games.
"It's pretty straightforward stuff," he said of the relationship, while offering little further insight into how it would work. "I know it's going to be another resource that we have going on in here. He will have a lot of stuff going on with the greater game, I suppose, as far as the picture is concerned there."
Sydney-born Johnson became Scotland's director of rugby in 2013 and has overseen their recent renaissance. He also served as Scotland's interim coach from 2012-2014.
Cheika has also met O'Connor, who has made clear he won't be afraid to voice his opinions.
"I spoke with Michael here the other day, just to give him an idea of how we do things around viewing, scouting and looking over the players in Super Rugby and what the differences are," he said.
"Then when Scott gets back I am sure we will share ideas around that table and come up with the best selections and the best opportunities as well."
Cheika watched Wales, England and France during his trip. Wales are in Australia's World Cup pool group and England and France are potential quarterfinal opponents.
"There is real intensity over there. Wales and England are both playing a strong, kick, defense, pressure game and they're very good at it," he said. "It gave me a really good sense of what's important to those teams."
Australia, beaten finalists at the 2015 World Cup, have fallen to number six in the world and few give them much chance of winning in Japan.
But Cheika believes this could work in their favor.
"We will be going into the tournament, all the tournaments this year, both Rugby Championship and World Cup, as underdogs. We have to take advantage of that."


© 2019 AFP
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