Cheika looking local for Ledesma replacement

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has spoken to a number of possibilities as he hunts for scrum coach Mario Ledesma’s replacement.

Cheika said he had contacted Brumbies scrum coach Dan Palmer, who has orchestrated Australia’s most consistent scrum in recent years, as well as recently sacked Reds coach Nick Stiles, but was yet to settle on an option.

The Wallabies will likely take a short-term replacement on their Spring Tour, with Ledesma finishing up after next Saturday’s Bledisloe, before deciding on a permanent appointment.

“I've been meeting with a couple of guys over the last few days,” Cheika said.

Mario Ledesma has joined the Jaguares. Photo: Getty Images“We'll be looking to just appoint someone to come on the tour with us and that'll give us a bit more breathing space to take the time to make the right, exact appointment we want.

“We'll look at the logistics and calendars of the guys we might want to come on the tour and we'll work it out from there.

“I'd be naive if I didn't look straight to our coaches at the next level who are doing forwards coaching there and trying to work out what the best mix might be.”

Whoever takes over from Ledesma will have big shoes to fill, but Cheika’s immediate focus is giving his long-time colleague a positive finish in Brisbane, in the final Bledisloe Cup clash this year.

Standing alongside Barbarians coach Alan Jones on Friday, the former Wallabies coach was effusive in his optimism about Australia’s chances in the Brisbane Test.

Cheika said the Wallabies couldn’t let their trans-Tasman foes have it their own way.

“I think you've got to look at the facts of what they are and New Zealand have been outstanding in the Rugby Championship,” he said.

“They're going to be coming here to try and repeat the first half of game one (a 54-34 defeat in Sydney) and we're going to have to play so much better than we've been playing to get up there and challenge them,” he said.

Cheika had concerns over his side’s fitness in June, coming out of Super Rugby, and though those have not been fully quelled, the Wallabies mentor is happier with the overall standard.

“We've got a way to go around maintaining top level for 80 minutes,” he said.

“I think we've improved a lot but these things are acquired over continuity over 12 months and not just filling holes.

“We're working on getting that better for next year but we'll do a fair bit of work in the lead up to the game to get ourselves in the best spot physically before what is the biggest challenge in world rugby.

Cheika spent two days with Australia’s top professional coaches this week, in an unprecedented national forum, with a view to ensuring those standards are maintained.

“I've seen a genuine authentic thirst for coaches to be more aligned, share, collaborate together to get a better outcome for the game in Australia,” he said.

Australia take on New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday October 21, kicking off at 7pm local, 8pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten and via RADIO.