LONDON (Reuters) - After being thumped 37-18 by England on Saturday coach Michael Cheika has issued a defiant promise that Australia will be all the better for their terrible 2018 and that he fully expects them to challenge for the World Cup in a year’s time.
It might sound like the desperate ravings of a man backed right up against the wall but Australia, more than any other nation, have shown how to peak for the World Cup and some shrewd punters might already be piling in while the odds are good.
They would not have to look too far for a precedent.
In 2014, Cheika, only a few weeks into the job, sat in the same Twickenham press room after a 26-17 defeat by England had ended a miserable November tour and promised the team would improve.
Sure enough they won 10 of their next 11 games to sweep into the World Cup final where they pushed New Zealand all the way.
Saturday’s defeat completed a year that brought nine defeats from 13 games, their worst run since 1958 when the two-time World Cup winners lost eight, drew one and won two.
It is true that their record is always slightly skewed by playing the All Blacks three times each year, but this run has also included defeats to Scotland, Argentina at home and Wales, for the first time in 14 meetings.
They have also now lost six in a row against England — their longest run of losses against Eddie Jones’s side.
“I almost feel like I’ve got a repeat of this very day in 2014,” Cheika said after Saturday’s loss.
“You’ve got to have the bad bits. You don’t want to have them, but when they occur you’ve got to live them and own them.
“This is what it’s all about — no one wants to have the struggles to get to the good bits these days, that’s what the game’s about, that’s what life is about.
“This year, we’ve felt sad often and we’ve felt pain often. We will use that when we come back. Sometimes the bitter taste and the scars that are left and the things that go against you make you stronger.”
Captain Michael Hooper said: “It’s been a tough year but we’ve learned a hell of a lot.
“We have got to be that way, take it in to next season we’ve got a couple of days now to digest and look forward to next year to build, and we are going to have to take this tough lesson and move on.”
Cheika said he was working hard behind the scenes with the CEOs and coaches of Australia’s Super Rugby teams in attempt to ensure the players were able to give their best, at the best time, for the national team.
He said he fully expected his team to turn the corner and was aiming high.
“From the minute the whistle blew on the last World Cup final there was only one possible outcome on the next one for us and that’s winning,” he said.
“Sceptics might be laughing but, give us a few months, and we’ll get ourselves together, don’t worry.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by John O'Brien