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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Steve Hansen on Michael Cheika: Teams need continuity like Manchester United had with Alex Ferguson

All Blacks coach defends record of Wallabies counterpart ahead of this weekend's Bledisloe Cup clash in Japan

Australia coach Michael Cheika has been under pressure in recent times owing to his team's record. AP Photo
Australia coach Michael Cheika has been under pressure in recent times owing to his team's record. AP Photo

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen on Thursday launched an impassioned defence of Wallabies rival Michael Cheika, pointing to how Manchester United stuck with Alex Ferguson before an unprecedented run of football success.

After Hansen and Cheika named their teams for this weekend's Bledisloe Cup clash in Japan, the All Blacks coach offered support to his opposite number, who survived calls for his dismissal thanks to a stunning 45-34 comeback win over Argentina earlier this month.

"I do know that continuity has been proven over and over again to be a pretty good recipe," Hansen said.

"Look at Alex Ferguson. He was just about to get the sack and went on to do the job for 30 years - and he wasn't too bad."

Hansen likened Cheika's position to current United manager Jose Mourinho, who has come under fire after a poor start to the season.

"Mourinho is probably in a similar boat at the moment," Hansen said. "They're going to decide what they're going to do with him because it's probably not going as well as they would like.

"I just think that sometimes we pull the trigger too quickly on the coach - sometimes I guess it is warranted, but most time I don't think it is," he added.

"I think it's a good thing [Australia] have given the players a platform that's secure, because they know the coach is secure and once that happens people can get on and do what they have to do."

Sonny Bill Williams is set to play his 50th Test on Saturday as the All Blacks named a strong team for the third Bledisloe Cup game in Yokohama.

Steve Hansen has enjoyed much success as All Blacks coach. Getty Images
Steve Hansen has enjoyed much success as All Blacks coach. Getty Images

'Feet on the ground'

"I didn't think 50 caps was a possibility when I first started playing rugby," the code-hopping superstar said.

"My feet are firmly on the ground. I haven't had many minutes playing rugby this year but I've got confidence in my ability and it helps playing alongside these magicians."

World champions New Zealand, chasing a 3-0 series whitewash having extended their 15-year stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup, also recalled fellow centre Ryan Crotty while Damian McKenzie returns at fullback.

The All Blacks slipped up last year after winning the first two Tests against the Wallabies and Hansen expects a stern examination this weekend.

"They're Australian so they don't need too much motivation," said Hansen, whose team face the 2019 World Cup hosts Japan in Tokyo on November 3 before flying to Europe to complete their five-match tour against England, Ireland and Italy.

Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, centre, is one of the longest-serving managers of a football club. Reuters
Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, centre, is one of the longest-serving managers of a football club. Reuters

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"Through our history, Australia is probably the team that's hurt us more than any other team," he added.

"Everyone knows what it's like between the two countries - whether it's footy, marbles or tiddlywinks, we want to beat them. We need to be right on top of our game."

Cheika, whose side lost six of eight games before erasing a 24-point half-time deficit against Argentina, will give Israel Folau his first start as centre, while veteran Sekope Kepu could earn his 100th cap after being named among the reserves.

Australia will also play November Tests away to Wales, Italy and England.