How Michael Cheika ended up in charge of Argentina until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup
Michael Cheika’s playing career took in stints in Australia, France and Italy, and his coaching career is just as travelled. He started out in Italy, courtesy of a Wallaby legend, moved back to his home team Randwick, swapped Australia for Ireland and then France; before returning home in search of Super Rugby success. And now he’s in charge – via a short spell in Japan – of Argentina’s World Cup bid.
But who is he… And how did he get there?
Ten facts about Michael Cheika
1. Michael Cheika was born in Sydney, Australia, on March 4, 1967. His parents had moved to Australia from Lebanon. He can speak Arabic as well as English, French and Italian.
2. After a playing career taking in spells in Australia, France and Italy, Cheika – a No 8 on the pitch, who represented Australia U21 side – moved into coaching, with Italian side Petrarca Padova thanks to a nod from former Wallaby international David Campese.
3. Cheika returned to Sydney in 2001 because his father had fallen ill. But, with European coaching experience secured )Petrarca played in the Heineken Cup in his season in charge) he was quickly back on the touchline with former club Randwick, guiding them to Shute Shield success in 2004.
4. The following year, he took over as head coach at Leinster – a move described by the province’s chief executive at the time as ‘a calculated punt’. In his time in charge, Leinster won the 2007-08 Celtic League, the 2009 Heineken Cup.
5. Cheika left Leinster at the end of the 2009-10 season to take over as director of rugby at French Top 14 side Stade Français, taking them to the Challenge Cup final in 2010-11, and the semi-final the following season. But he was sacked, amid reports of off-field conflict in 2012.
6. He returned to Australia, taking charge of Waratahs for the 2013 Super Rugby campaign, coaching them to the title in his second season at the New South Wales’ club. The final was a 33-32, nail-biting victory over Crusaders in front of 61,000 people at the ANZ Stadium.
7. He was appointed to the Wallabies’ top job in October 2014, after Ewen McKenzie’s surprise resignation. Australia lost three of their first four Tests on that year’s November tour, their worst run since 2005. Cheika is said to be behind the introduction of ‘Giteau’s Law’ which enabled certain overseas-based players to represent Australia in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
8. Despite being in charge for less than a year, Cheika guided Australia to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, with a perfect pool record, a narrow win over Scotland in the quarter-finals and a more comfortable victory over Argentina in the last four. That run won him the World Rugby Coach of the Year award.
9. He resigned as Wallabies head coach after the 2019 World Cup quarter-final defeat to England in Japan. After a stint in Japan as coach of Green Rockets Michael Cheika became Argentina coach on a contract through to the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Felipe Contepomi, who played under him at Leinster, will replace him at the head of Los Pumas after the tournament. Cheika also took some time out to coach Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup.
10. After leaving school, Cheika did not go onto higher education, but through family who worked in the fashion industry, he found out that Australian designer Collette Dinnigan was looking for someone who could speak French and Italian. He helped run the business and following that initial break, Cheika went on to work for another designer before setting up his own clothing company, Live Fashion, which has proved very profitable.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.