Wallabies' World Cup hopes exposed by Super Rugby routs

MELBOURNE - Michael Cheika has an extra week to prepare the Wallabies for their tilt at a third World Cup title after both Australia's Super Rugby semi-finalists were dumped out of the competition at the weekend.

Given the thrashings handed out to the ACT Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs, Cheika might prefer to have an extra year.

Any doubts about the scale of Australia's task in England were torpedoed on Saturday as the All Blacks-laden Hurricanes hammered the Brumbies before Cheika's Waratahs wilted against the Highlanders.

Cheika's last match in charge of the Sydney team ended with a stinging 35-17 loss on home soil, as the Highlanders finally killed off a title defence that never appeared on solid ground.

In the Hurricanes game in Wellington, the final 29-9 score flattered a hard-travelling Brumbies side who were overwhelmed by their opponents' blitzkrieg offence, while one-dimensional in their own rare forays in attack.

Though the all-New Zealand final will disrupt the All Blacks' preparations for their first World Cup warmup match against Samoa next month, Cheika is unlikely to take any comfort.

The gap between New Zealand and Australia's finest has rarely appeared greater, with the capped Wallabies in both semi-finals largely overshadowed by their All Blacks opponents.

Though his Waratahs' tenure ended in disappointment, Cheika, 48, may feel a measure of relief.

He no longer has to keep tabs on the progress of Wallabies' hopefuls in other Super Rugby teams while also plotting against them on the playing field.

Wearing two coaching hats has undoubtedly been a strain.

However, according to long-serving Australia centre and Waratahs stalwart Adam Ashley-Cooper, the sixth-ranked Wallabies are better prepared due to Cheika's juggling act.

Former Wallabies coaches would wait until the Super Rugby season was wrapped up before getting the players together, but Cheika had been in regular touch with prospective squad members throughout to ensure his plans were understood, Ashley-Cooper said.

"We have been doing a lot of work throughout the year," the 31-year-old told local media after the semi-final loss.

"Something we haven't been doing over the last decade is connecting as a Wallabies group during Super Rugby.

"We are mentally prepared. Once we get all together as a group we'll be ready to go.

"You can thank 'Cheik' for that. He's not leaving anything to chance. The work we've done as leaders, decision makers, and certain members of the team, Cheik's got together with all the other provinces, there is a bond."

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