Wallabies coach Michael Cheika paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, saying the former world heavyweight champion is often used as inspiration for his team.

Ali died on Friday at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, with septic shock the official cause of death.

And speaking ahead of Australia's first of three Tests against England, Cheika said his death was a sad moment for everyone involved in sport.

"Obviously, from our point of view - I know we're a long way away - but we'd like to let his family know that our family are well and truly with them," he said.

"I'll tell you why. We like many teams around the world have used that man as inspiration.

"Motivational videos, posters on the wall, in phrases and sayings that he has used and we've been able to use a part of his aura to help us build our own personalities.

"We should pay respect to that, even though we don't know the man.

"We've used his life to help inspire us, so may he rest in peace."