Cheika gifts scrum guru back to Argentina
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika said Australian rugby was given "a gift" in a crisis by Argentina in the form of Mario Ledesma, so it was only right to return the favour and give the scrum guru back.
As reported, Ledesma confirmed he will be returning to Argentina later this year to take up the role of the Jaguares head coach in Super Rugby.
The legendary ex-Pumas hooker has been with Australian rugby since 2014 when he joined Cheika with the Wallabies, and the Waratahs. The pair first worked together at Stade Francais.
Ledesma's work with the Wallabies scrum was hugely influential in turning around the perception of Australia having a poor pack, and the poor performances that fuelled that reputation.
His work led to the Wallabies' eight smashing England at scrum-time in the Rugby World Cup.
But after committing to stay with the Wallabies through to the next World Cup in 2019, Ledesma was pursued by the UAR to take over the struggling Jaguares and Cheika said he wouldn't dream of standing in the way.
"Argentina gave us a gift when they gave us Mario Ledesma. In 2014 when we went on the tour, when I first took over, we got our scrum pummelled by the English in one game and if you're a good person when you get a gift, you should always give one back," Cheika said in a statement
"Now we're giving a gift back because Mario Ledesma is a good man, he's a great coach and as much as I'm sad that he's leaving, personally as his friend and from a rugby point of view.
"Not only is he improving himself by having this position, which is what we want our people to do, but also he's coming back to his family who he hasn't seen for many, many years.
"It's going to be a great thing for Argentinian rugby and hopefully the Jaguares will do very well except when they play against the Australian teams."
Ledesma, who played 84 Tests for the Pumas, said in a statement he had mixed emotions about leaving.
"While I'm very excited to move home to Argentina and get involved with the Jaguares, I do leave Australia and the Wallabies with a heavy heart," he said.
"I'm an extremely proud Argentinean and I bleed blue and white, but the Wallabies have been a second family for me.
"Michael (Cheika) gave me an incredible opportunity and I cannot thank him enough for his support, not only in my development as a coach but off the field too.
"This is an amazing group of players and staff with the Wallabies right now, which made this decision even harder. They have made my time in Australia so memorable and I can't thank them enough for everything."
Experienced Brumbies mentor Laurie Fisher is a leading candidate to take over from Ledesma although the Canberra club aren't keen for him to juggle both roles.
Recently sacked Reds coach Nick Stiles has also expressed interest in the job.