Former Australia rugby union coach Michael Cheika - currently working with Argentina - will switch codes to take charge of the Lebanon rugby league team for the World Cup next year, the Lebanese federation announced Thursday.
"I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity to represent Lebanon on the world stage at the Rugby League World Cup in 2021," said Cheika, born in Australia to Lebanese immigrants.
"I am looking forward to the Lebanese diaspora coming together with those in Lebanon to make everyone in the country and around the world very proud of their team - and we can give them plenty to cheer about."
What an incredible career Cheika has had, and another great chapter switching codes - loved working with him. https://t.co/zAP79ovy7B— luke fitzgerald (@lukefitz11) November 19, 2020
Cheika coached the Wallabies at two union World Cups, in 2015 and 2019.
The Lebanese federation said Cheika's contract involved him "leading on training programs for players based in Lebanon and implementing a performance programmes with at least six local players guaranteed spots in the Cedars' World Cup squad".
Lebanon are in Group C of the 2021 World Cup to be held in England, and will face New Zealand, Ireland and Jamaica in pool play.
Cheika has long admired rugby league and worked with the Sydney Roosters in 2020 as a consultant.
Cheika has joined Mario Ledesma's Los Pumas side for the Tri Nations campaign in Australia.
Pumas captain Pablo Matera said that the former Wallabies coach had played a part in helping the nation defeat the All Blacks for the first time in their 35-year history by providing them with the belief that they could beat anyone in the world.
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😳 The half time speech tho..— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) November 17, 2020
🗓️ Saturday 21 November 7:45PM AEDT
🏟️ McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
🎟️ Tickets: https://t.co/XPN5MOdl0x
📺 @Foxtel @Channel10au#ARGvAUS @etoro #TriNations2020 pic.twitter.com/Q97FqxKj7c
He will now have his eyes set on taking down the Wallabies on Saturday night as the Pumas hunt their second tier-one scalp in as many weeks.
Ledesma said he felt for Cheika ahead of Saturday's Test in Newcastle - the first time that former Wallabies coach will have faced his old team.
"I was in his place a few years ago and it's never easy," the Argentine great said.
"He's a very proud Australian and he's not going to change."
- With Christy Doran