Hooper rues spurned penalties, Cheika seeks positives

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Australia skipper Michael Hooper admits ruing twice spurning kickable penalties to go for attacking line-outs, as under-fire coach Michael Cheika sought out the positives after the team’s narrow 9-6 defeat by Wales.

A tough encounter at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday saw the Wallabies suffer their eighth loss of the year.

But fly-half Bernard Foley was twice ordered to kick for touch in place of going for the posts early in the second half, with the game delicately poised at 3-3.

Instead of garnering a try from the attacking line-outs, the Australians came away with nothing after a knock-on and an overthrow respectively.

“If I had my time again I’d have gone for the shot, yes,” said Hooper after his first loss to the Welsh in 10 appearances, a run that coincided with Wales’ 13-match losing streak over 10 years to Australia.

“But I backed our guys to get the try and keep the foot on.

“Probably my reading of the game there was amiss because it was going to come down to penalties in the end. I should have gone for goal.”

Cheika has enjoyed an indifferent season as coach of the Wallabies, who won just two of their six Rugby Championship matches and, now with just three wins from 11 Tests this season, have their win percentage their lowest for a calendar year since 1974.

“Our defence was excellent and our energy and effort around the game was really good,” Cheika said.

“But we released the build up of pressure we had from our defence by either infringing or losing ball in the line-out.”

– ‘Irrelevant’ record –

Cheika dismissed thoughts about Australia having lost their stranglehold over the Welsh.

“It’s irrelevant, it’s about this game only, that stuff has no bearing on what happens today,” he said, also playing down any thoughts that Wales would have a confidence boost ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan where the two teams have been drawn in the same pool.

“I don’t think any,” he said of any potential morale booster for Warren Gatland’s squad.

“My opinion on rugby is that when you get to the game no one’s thinking about what happened 10 years ago, one minute ago, you’re thinking about what you’re going to do for the next 80 minutes in that individual moment.”

Week-in, week-out rugby was not, he argued, “like a big game of dominoes”.

“You just turn up, kick off and it’s on for 80, it’s an individual moment in itself and it’s about who’s best on the day.”

Cheika also moved to appease worried Wallaby fans just 10 months away from the World Cup.

“All I can do is get the guys improving on the things we didn’t do well today, and there weren’t a lot of them,” he said.

“Wales are a good team, ranked third in the world. This one went against us.

“It’s hasn’t always gone for us. You’ve got to take it on the chin, you’ve got to understand what you’re doing well and also improve the things that we didn’t do well today, improve those for next week and get a win, so if people are losing faith, get a bit of that back with a good performance next Saturday.”

Hooper was also upbeat, saying: “There’s plenty to play for us, 14 games out from a final next year (at the World Cup).” – Agence France-Presse

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