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Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live coverage of this morning’s first Rugby Championship match, between New Zealand and Argentina in Hamilton.

Ahead of a Test match between his Wallabies and the All Blacks in 2016, Michael Cheika was depicted as a clown in the pages of New Zealand’s biggest newspaper. It’s a fair bet no cartoonist will get the same commission this week.

Argentina’s deserved 25-18 victory over their hosts in Christchurch last Saturday stunned New Zealand but also served as a reminder of the quality of the opposing coach.

Cheika’s reputation took a dive in the latter years of his time in charge of his native Australia, a reign that ended in acrimony after a humiliating quarter-final exit at the 2019 World Cup.

The success of the Pumas in his first season in charge, however, has once again illustrated that Cheika is one of the game’s great motivators, a coach with an almost unrivalled ability to galvanise a team and get quick results.

Argentina have taken the wooden spoon in eight of their nine previous seasons in the Rugby Championship but are top of the table heading into this weekend’s second Test against the All Blacks in Hamilton.

That may or may not last beyond Saturday but Cheika is in any case firmly focused on building for next year’s World Cup.

“On the way to the World Cup, which is what we’re planning for obviously, we’ve talked about trying to get some firsts to mark our own belief and self-confidence,” Cheika said on Thursday.

The firsts this season have already included a home series triumph over Scotland in July, a record 48-17 win over Australia three weeks ago and the maiden victory over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil last weekend.

Cheika’s reputation as an agent of change was established when he took over underperforming teams at Leinster and New South Wales Waratahs and led them to 2009 European Cup and 2014 Super Rugby titles, respectively.

Winning the major club prize in both hemispheres was a unique achievement for a coach and he was no less successful when he moved up to Test rugby, leading the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup final just a year after taking the job.

He also helped out Pumas coach Mario Ledesma as consultant during the 2020 Rugby Championship, playing a part in Argentina’s first ever win over the All Blacks in Sydney.

Can he mastermind a third today?





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