The Wallabies will open their Rugby Championship campaign against an unlikely coaching duo that will be familiar to most Australian sports fans.
Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is now Argentina’s head honcho, winning the top job in March following Mario Ledesma’s resignation.
Cheika had previously served as Ledesma’s Pumas assistant since 2020 and helped mastermind their historic victory over the All Blacks in Sydney.
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A noted NRL enthusiast, one of Cheika’s first moves was employing former Kiwis enforcer David Kidwell as his defense coach.
And it’s so far, so good for the new pairing as Argentina claimed a rare 2-1 series victory over higher-ranked Scotland in July.
The third Test win was thrilling, as Emiliano Boffelli scored the match-winning try with the final play in front of a raucous, sell-out crowd of 30,000 at Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades.
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“The big one was 28-13 down with about 25-30 to go, Argentina don’t come back from there,” Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sports’ Between Two Posts.
“So there’s a few elements there. The steel of a Cheika, Cheika loves coming in and turning things around. They (Pumas) were actually very good in the first year of COVID bubbles because they got time together but then they just didn’t deal with the mindset of being separated so much.
“Obviously so many of their players are now based in Europe so they don’t get much time together. To come back from that speaks volumes of the quality there.”
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Kidwell’s influence is consistent with many leading rugby nations who are calling on league figures to bolster their defence.
Andy Farrell is now the head coach of world No.1 Ireland, Shaun Edwards is the defensive mastermind of second-ranked France while former Broncos coach Anthony Seibold is in charge of that department under Eddie Jones in England.
“I think David Kidwell as well will be good for them, just adding a little bit of starch,” Turinui said.
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“You’ve seen it with France, their defense coach Shaun Edwards there. You’ve seen it with England, with Seibs there and I think he will add a little bit of starch defensively for them.
“They’re a team on the up and the Wallabies have got to play them twice in two weeks.”
The first Test is in Mendoza on August 7 and the second in San Juan on August 14.
All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens noted that Argentina had a willingness to play free-flowing rugby when circumstances allowed against Scotland.
“We’ve got to used to talking about Argentina being very big and strong and a really forward-oriented game,” Mehrtens said.
“But back in the day they used to move the ball around, they were really nippy in the backs and keep the ball alive. We saw more of that and it was a great culmination to that series over there. They’ve played at new venues and got away from Buenos Aires.
“Football is so strong in Argentina and a lot of rugby strongholds have been the provincial areas like Tucuman, Rosario and Cordoba.”
While Cheika has coached against the Wallabies as an assistant before, this will be his first experience as the main man in charge.
He told The Times in 2020 that he could never coach against Australia – “I feel that’s almost being a traitor” – but explained his backtrack in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
“When I said that, I meant it. When you are in that position, you have to believe you – and I say this in the right way – are there forever,” Cheika said.
“When people write ‘he said he would never coach against Australia,’ obviously they don’t understand what being in that role is. It is so important for the game, as a whole.
“You have to be all in, or what are you doing?”
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