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Michael Cheika leading race to be next Leicester Tigers king

By Neil Fissler
Michael Cheika head coach of Argentina gestures prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Argentina and England at Stade de France on October 27, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers are in advanced talks with former Australia coach Michael Cheika after they dramatically announced the sacking of head coach Dan McKellar.

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Cheika has been looking for another job after leaving his job as Argentina’s head coach after they were beaten 26-23 in the bronze final by England earlier this season.

The Tigers initially overlooked the ex-Wallaby boss in favour of McKellar, who is now likely to be among the front runners to take over at the NSW Waratahs, a job that Cheika has also been linked with.

Cheika, who made millions selling jeans in the women’s fashion industry is expected to be installed before most of the Tigers squad who aren’t away on international duty report back for pre-season training on July 1.

The 57-year-old also coached Lebanon at the delayed 2022 Rugby League World Cup, even though it clashed with the Pumas touring for the autumn test series and has plenty of European club experience.

He started his coaching career in Italy with Petrarca Rugby, then took charge of Leinster, winning the Celtic League in 2008 and the Heineken Cup the following year before moving to Stade Francais.

The 2015 World Rugby Coach of the Year will need to win over the powerful Tigers dressing room, something many coaches who have taken charge of the club in the past have failed to do.

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Cheika had recently discussed a cross-code switch to the NRL with the Parramatta Eels but was eliminated from the running for the job following the first round of interviews.

Four years ago, he was linked with a move to Gloucester and has been regularly linked with big-spending Top 14 outfit Montpellier and could tie up a deal to join the Tigers within the next 48-72 hours.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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