Michael Cheika - Photo: Photosport
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will struggle to convince anybody that his side deserve to start as underdogs in the Bledisloe Cup opener, including his own players, Michael Cheika says.
The Wallabies mentor has questioned the merits of his counterpart's bold claim before the first Test, which starts at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on August 18.
Hansen suggested this week that Australia "have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favourites".
The statement ignored 16 years of trans-Tasman dominance, the fact Hansen's charges are World Cup holders and have occupied top spot on world rugby's rankings since 2009, and the wisdom of every bookmaker on the planet.
Cheika beamed on Friday when asked about Hansen's take.
"I was a little bit surprised," he said.
"Hansen's a fine coach, he's obviously a great rugby mind. He's leading a team that is the best in the world.
"But he may have had that one wrong because I don't think many of his players would believe that.
"I don't think it's very realistic.
"Sometimes you say stuff and go, 'Maybe I shouldn't have said that'."
Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock this week rubbished Hansen's claim as "a load of tripe".
Cheika is set to announce his 28-man squad on Sunday, the same day the All Blacks arrive in Sydney.
The Wallabies recently completed a training camp in Cessnock, with Cheika confident they'll be much better prepared for the first Test compared with last year.
The All Blacks scored a record six tries in the first half of the 2017 Bledisloe opener.
"We're physically in a better place," Cheika said.
"We've got guys who have come out (of Super Rugby) in much better nick.
"We've been able to maybe focus a little bit more on our rugby.
"We've got slightly different strategy."