As a consultant, Michael Cheika helped guide Argentina to their breakthrough win over the All Blacks in union
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Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has switched codes to take charge of Lebanon’s rugby league side with an eye on next year’s Rugby League World Cup in England.
Cheika coached the Wallabies for five years until he stepped down in 2019 after a quarter-final exit at the World Cup.
Cheika’s parents were both migrants from Lebanon who came to Australia in the 1950s and the 53-year-old Australian said taking up the offer had to do with returning to his roots.
"It’s an unbelievable opportunity for me to do something that represents the land where my parents came from," Cheika told the Daily Telegraph in Australia, adding that he closely followed the Cedars’ run to the 2017 World Cup quarter-finals.
"There is something about being Lebanese, you can never put your finger on it. I’m born here but when I went there as an adult the first time we landed in Beirut, I really felt a strong connection to the place."
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 the Tri-Nations.
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He was also on the coaching staff of National Rugby League (NRL) side Sydney Roosters and the move to Lebanon is being seen as a stepping stone to a potential role in Australia’s top-flight.
"I’m still ambitious as a coach because I love it, I can’t help it," Cheika added.
"I’m here with Argentina now because I love it. I just want it to unfold naturally. Being with the Roosters, it’s been insightful but I’m going to take every day as it comes and see what happens from there."