A big change is on his way to Argentina; Michael Cheika is to coach Los Pumas. Alejo Miranda reports that the Australian is the new Head Coach of Argentina’s national Men’s test team. The move is rare; it is the first time since 1999 that Los Pumas’ will not be coached by an Argentine.
Cheika replaces Mario Ledesma. It comes after Ledesma had had his contract as head coach extended until RWC 2023. With the change, Cheika now has the task of turning around a team that struggled in 2021 and seeing them compete for the right to be world champions at RWC 2023.
Aged 55, Cheika brings with him a detailed resumé. Like most of the leading Argentine players, Cheika spent time playing in Europe. He played for Castres and Stade Français in France and also played in Italy. He played for Australia at the junior level but was uncapped at senior level.
He took up coaching in 1999 in Italy and subsequently coached Randwick in Sydney. In 2005 he returned to Europe to take charge of Leinster. During his time at Leinster the Irish province won the European Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship (URC).
Former Pumas captain and World Rugby Hall of Famer, Felipe Contepomi played under Cheika at Leinster. Cheika also coached Contepomi at Stade Français whom he took charge of after moving from Leinster to the Parisian club in 2010. In 2013 he returned to Australia to coach the Waratahs in Super Rugby and he became the Wallabies head coach in 2014.
As head coach of Australia, Cheika had Mario Ledesma as an assistant. The pair worked together before the Argentine left to take charge of Los Jaguares for the 2018 Super Rugby season. Ledesma subsequently became Los Pumas Head Coach and Cheika worked as an assistant for him in the 2020 Tri Nations. Cheika was widely respected by the players as being central to beating New Zealand in 2021.
The Cheika regime will see him reuniting with Contepomi. The Argentine is set to depart Leinster to take-on an assistant position to Cheika. Miranda points out that the intention is for Cheika to take Argentina to the World Cup and for Contepomi to replace him to be the head coach following the completion of RWC 2023.