How the Wallabies can get their ‘swagger’ back
WINTER is coming, and for the Wallabies that means facing up to a month that hasn't been kind to them in the last two seasons.
Australia's recent June form has been as cold as the weather - rolled 3-0 by England in 2016 and stumbling through 2017 wins over Fiji and Italy either side of a loss to Scotland.
On home soil that is not acceptable and coach Michael Cheika last year blamed a lack of conditioning for the sluggish start to the Test campaign.
He knows that excuse won't wash again this year against world No.2 Ireland, who will come down under bullish off the back of their Grand Slam Six Nations success.
"You can have the best players, but if you're not fit enough, forget about it," Cheika said ahead of the three-Test series in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
He is confident that gains have been made in that area as the Wallabies coaches and high-performance staff continue to improve their lines of communication with Super Rugby clubs.
But Australia will be up against it given the scheduling this season, with just one week of preparation before the opening Test at Suncorp Stadium on June 9.
"It's going to be simple messaging in a short period of time, just to be really clear of what we need to do to win those games," Cheika said.
"We've got a strong identity piece that runs through our teams, so when they come back together, no matter where they're coming from, they know what the things are culturally that happen when you're around the Wallabies.
"What are the important things to get right within the first six days so we can be ready for that first game in Brisbane?
"What are the key elements to competing with the team that's No 2 in the world, coming off a Grand Slam, and then beating them as well?"
Cheika wasn't keen to reveal too many secrets but said more work was required to improve players' mental strength and confidence.
"I still think that we've got to have a bit more self belief about us, a bit more swagger," Cheika said.
"Not arrogance or anything like that, but we've got to believe in ourselves to go the distance. "We've been in a lot of games and as soon games go against us a little bit, we don't come back again and again.
"That's something we've got to get better at just through perseverance and being connected and being truly invested all the way to the finish, no matter what the result, and I think then we'll see the best out of all our players.
"That consistency and mentality must be there.
"It can't be there for half games, it can't be there for half seasons, it can't be there for half rounds, you've got to go in there and keep coming back and coming back all the time."
Cheika will name his squad on May 30.
There are unlikely to be too many fresh faces, with Cheika wanting to now start cementing combinations ahead of next year's World Cup in Japan.
Setting aside Super Rugby rivalries and getting everyone on the same page is a priority.
"They've beaten each other up for the first half of the year, but everyone unifying, getting used to that identity, making the sacrifices required to be part of this team, the national team and committing to it," Cheika said.
"Getting the trust together and building on it, and that does take a bit of time but over the years you start to alleviate how long that takes."