Michael Cheika confirmed as Argentina coach for Rugby World Cup

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Two years on from saying he would feel ‘almost a traitor’ if he coached against the Wallabies, Michael Cheika has confirmed his appointment as head coach of Rugby Championship rivals Argentina.

Cheika was introduced by the Argentina Rugby Union on Saturday AEDT, as replacement for Mario Ledesma, having been an assistant coach for Los Pumas last year.

The 55-year-old, who took Australia to the 2015 World Cup final, had an acrimonious exit from the role after the 2019 World Cup failue.

This contract will see him in charge until the end of next year’s showpiece tournament in France, and Cheika says he wants to help Argentina become more cosistent at internatinal level.

“The level is there and the quality is there, no doubt,” Cheika said.

Michael Cheika

(Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

“When you are consistently good you become great so let’s start off by being good. And let’s be good as much as we can and then we’ll see where we can end up.

“In Test football it is about being (and) feeling your best, and being at your best on that right day,.

“That’s where I think where the team needs to understand it’s about just learning how to be best on that day. And that is something that I hope my experience can bring them.”

Cheika said he wanted to tap into the Pumas natural toughness and grit.

“I want to keep the mentality,” he said. “I love that attitude that comes with the Pumas.”

In the aftermath of his bitter departure, Cheika told the Times newspaper he felt could never coach against them.

“I’ve always felt that I couldn’t ever go back and coach against a team I’ve already coached,” Cheika said.

“I feel that’s almost being a traitor; I know this is probably not very cool or modern day professional. But that’s been in my mind with a couple of conversations [with clubs] I’ve had in France.

“You could say, ‘I am going to show them. But I’m never going to go against them. That’s my country [Australia]. They are my guys. That’s the jersey my kids wear. Obviously, the management didn’t like me, for one reason or another and that’s how they approached it.”

On Saturday, Cheika said the the opportunity to coach the Pumas was “too good to say no to.

“I love the way they play their rugby and I feel connected. This is a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Former Wallaby Justin Harrison, who has spent time alongside Cheika recently as part of the Stan Sport panel expects him to make a difference for the Pumas.

“Look, Argentina are clearly looking for some stability and some direction,” he said.

“That’s a man who can get results reasonably quickly which is what Argentina need a year and a half out from World Cup.”

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