Cheika puts bounty on Irish star’s head
IRISH saviour Johnny Sexton never expected his good mate "Cheik" to rough him up until he learnt the hard way he'll be target practice for the Wallabies on Saturday night.
It will take a masterful game from flyhalf Sexton to revive Ireland in this series but he'll need to sidestep a blitz of gold-jerseyed torpedoes to do it at Melbourne's AAMI Park.
The crunching physicality of the Wallabies was lauded after the 18-9 first Test win in Brisbane last weekend when exactly who was jolted was just as important.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika knows that scheming halfback Conor Murray and whoever wears the green No.10 jersey are the heartbeat of Ireland's chances in this three-Test series.
It's credit to Murray that he still orchestrated many of Ireland's best moments last weekend.
That was even after being clubbed to the turf in jolting tackles by Marika Koroibete and Kurtley Beale which could mute Ireland's key director of play for a few rucks.
When Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper got to Joey Carbery he buckled him in half with a legal tackle that left the young flyhalf wincing on the turf.
Sexton is certain to be in the crosshairs in Melbourne, as starting No.10 for his 81st Test.
Resuming his love-hate relationship with the Aussie coach who first elevated him in Dublin will be relished on both sides.
Cheika's standards and intensity, when coach of Irish province Leinster (2005-10), aided the young Sexton but not selecting him more often also irked the ambitious young flyhalf.
In his best-selling book Johnny Sexton: Becoming a Lion, the Irish ace admits he was naive about what to expect from Cheika's NSW Waratahs on the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour.
Teammate Sean O'Brien warned Sexton that Cheika would have players go after him in Sydney.
"'He wouldn't do that'...(but) it turns out Seanie was spot on," Sexton wrote.
"I was hit hard four times, all of them verging on me late, had my ankle stamped and had a prop lean on my windpipe to the point I thought I was going to pass out.
"When I saw Cheiks being interviewed afterwards I called him a name I can't repeat (although) with half a smile (because) we produced some cracking rugby."
The full-on flavour to the first Test stirred a rush on the final 2000 tickets for Melbourne on top of the 28,000 already sold.
Key lock Adam Coleman, one of four hometown Melbourne Rebels certain to start, knows there is no place for Wallabies Lite now huge physicality is the standard.
"We got stuck in to defend and have pride in our line (to keep the Irish tryless) but we know they'll be tougher again in Melbourne," Coleman said.
Coleman expects the Wallabies to go up a notch too and no one will accept three lost lineouts again.
"Getting four franchises together in six days with all new calls and principles can be tough so great credit to the boys, we'll review hard and get better ourselves," Coleman said.
Reserve prop Allan Alaalatoa, a late withdrawal from the first Test with a twisted ankle at training, will be fit for consideration.