Cheika "shines in the tough moments": Ledesma

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Pumas coach Mario Ledesma says Michael Cheika is the right man to lead Australia to the World Cup regardless of the result on Saturday night.

With the Wallabies facing their worst Rugby Championship return since the competition’s inception, the heat on the team and Cheika is as intense as it has been in recent time.

If they lose to the Pumas in Salta, it would be hard not to think there will be some kind of fallout.

There has already been speculation about bringing a new face into the mix as a selector or advisor, though there has been no confirmation of such a move.

Those external factors combine to make this one of the most important games of Cheika’s Wallabies career.

Ledesma was part of Cheika’s coaching staff when he took over the Wallabies less than a year out from the 2015 Rugby World Cup and helped him turn things around, before quitting last year to return to his native Argentina.

Though he admitted you could never totally rule out the possibility of a change of heart from Rugby Australia, he felt it would be unlikely and unnecessary.

“They did it last World Cup so you never know but I don't see that happening, I don't see another better solution than having Cheik over there on the staff,”’ he said.

“When he went to Leinster they weren't the team they were after he left, he did the same thing with the Waratahs and he did it before with the Wallabies.

“So, he can do it again. I hope he doesn't do it tomorrow.”

Ledesma said his Wallabies counterpart Cheika would be relishing the challenge in front of him this weekend.

“I have known Cheik for a bit now and I know how he thinks and obviously he doesn't want to be in this situation but this is what he's best at,” he said.

“He shines in the tough moments and obviously you need results to back it up but he's not fazed by pressure.

“He doesn't do this for money obviously, he does it because he loves it and the players love him and the staff is behind him.

“I hope we win, don't get me wrong, but I don't think Cheik's going anywhere and he shouldn't.”

The Wallabies have been speaking with confidence publicly ahead of the game.

Halfback Will Genia said immediately after their loss in South Africa that he was already certain that they would win on 

“I don't know about the promise but he's killing it,” he said.

“He kept the Wallabies in the game with Poey last week.

“If Poey wasn't there and Willy wasn't there, they wouldn't have the chance to win at the end of the game.

“I think that's a good sign for their team if he's confident and if he wins, he wins. If he doesn't win, I mean they're already bagging them so nothing's changed.”

Ledesma was quick to bat away any notion that the Wallabies are underdogs in the game, despite bookmakers pricing the Pumas as $1.80 favourites for what would almost definitely be the first time against Australia.

“Really? Have you seen both teams? It's pretty handy the team that they put out,” he said.

“It's better for them to have Bernard back at 10.

“I think that not because of Bernard but because of Kurtley, I think Kurtley needs a little bit more space and freedom.

“Obviously he's still a playmaker but when he comes after maybe two or three phases and it's different to keep bossing everybody and thinking about everything.

“I think he's more of a spontaneous kind of player and that's where his best start is.”

The Wallabies take on the Pumas in Salta on Saturday October 6, 7:40pm local, Sunday October 7 9::40am AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Channel Ten.