Wallabies wary of former coach Michael Cheika being ‘asset’ to Argentina

Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will give Argentina a “leg up” against the hosts in Saturday’s Tri-Nations clash in Newcastle when coaching from the Pumas’ box, Australia lock Ned Hanigan says.

Cheika, who said in May he could never coach against Australia, took a consultancy role with the Pumas in September and helped guide Mario Ledesma’s side to their breakthrough 25-15 win over the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

“Having Cheika in a team, he’s got that sort of motivating aspect about him and he obviously knows Australian rugby really well,” Hanigan said on Tuesday. “So he’ll definitely be an asset to them in a game like we’ve got on the weekend in Newcastle.“

With Ledesma as his scrum coach, Cheika guided the Wallabies to the final of the 2015 World Cup but quit after the team crashed out of the quarter-finals in Japan last year – Australia’s equal-worst performance at the global tournament.

Pumas captain Pablo Matera praised Cheika after the New Zealand match for helping the team believe they could topple the Kiwis for the first time in 30 tests. Hanigan, who was handed his first test cap by Cheika in 2017, said he could see some of his former boss’s “DNA” in Argentina’s play.

“He’s obviously got plenty of expertise. He’s coached plenty of the players in the [Australia] side,” he added. “He’ll be a bit of a leg up to Argentina this week, I reckon … he just likes winning.“

With the Tri-Nations silverware still up for grabs, Australia face Argentina two weeks after beating the All Blacks 24-22 in Brisbane, their first win under new coach Dave Rennie.

Hanigan could not see Argentina struggling for motivation against Australia after the huge emotional high. “I think [the momentum] just keeps adding,” he said. “That on-field energy – you keep building.”

Australian coach Dave Rennie could be spared a selection headache for the Newcastle clash, with his first-choice No 10 James O’Connor likely to be unavailable for the Test with a fresh foot injury.

The Queensland playmaker had started in the first two Tests under Rennie before a knee injury saw Noah Lolesio then Reece Hodge fill his boots in subsequent games.

It means Hodge, fresh off playing a cool hand in their defeat of the All Blacks, has the inside running to retain the No 10 for the first time in his career despite Lolesio’s sharp cameo off the bench in the same game.

Elsewhere rookie prop Angus Bell will battle Scott Sio for the starting role vacated by James Slipper. The 20-year-old, whose father Mark also played for Australia, replaced Slipper late in the first half after the 100-Test prop dislocated his elbow.

“It was better I just got chucked in. No thinking, just straight into it,” Bell said of his early entrance. “It was the best week of my life, very special … an awesome day and [there was] no advice [from dad]; just go as hard as you can.”