Australia head coach Michael Cheika’s job is not on the line despite his team losing their last five Tests.
That is according to Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver, who has moved to ease the pressure on Cheika, who saw his side lose 42-8 to New Zealand in Sydney last weekend.
In fact, Pulver is expecting an improved performance in the return game at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday and has also backed Cheika to coach the team to the 2019 World Cup.
“Our national coach is hurting and really the entire team is hurting,” Pulver told AAP.
“That’s why I’m really confident you’re going to see a team that does play with a lot of pride on the line this weekend and I think you’ll see a far superior performance.”
Australia have lost their three first-choice inside centres to injury after Matt Giteau broke his ankle 10 minutes into the game. He has since been ruled out for four months.
His replacements, Rob Horne and Matt Toomua suffered shoulder and concussion issues respectively which has ruled them out of the Test against the All Blacks.
Cheika tried to make light of the situation.
“We’ll probably retire the No 12 jersey – it’s not been a good one so far in this series,” Cheika quipped.
Kurtley Beale, Christian Leali’ifano and Karmichael Hunt are not unavailable. Playmaker Quade Cooper, uncapped Reece Hodge and hard-running Samu Kerevi, who played inside centre in the first two Tests against England in June, are in the squad and competing for the number 12 jersey.
“There’s a few options we’ve got there – the possibility of playing more ball runners, together with Samu coming in there,” Cheika said.
“Or we can try and work two playmakers around. Quade has obviously been there or thereabouts in training. Reece Hodge also has put his hand up quite well at training over the last few weeks. It would be a big call for him, but he looks like he’s a lad who is up for it, too.
“I think we go back, right back to the very start, about attitude and who wants to make it right and we’ll go with the selections from there.”