Cheika to be key as Argentina step up Tri-Nations preparations

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Australia Captain's Run - Oita Stadium, Japan - October 18, 2019 Australia coach Michael Cheika, who is now working as a consultant with Argentina, is seen during the captain's run. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

(Reuters) - Argentina’s home-based players will move out of quarantine in host nation Australia on Tuesday, allowing consultant Michael Cheika to work more closely with the group as they build towards a Tri-Nations series that also includes New Zealand.

The squad arrived in Sydney from a training camp in Uruguay on Oct. 6 and will now be able to resume normal training under head coach Mario Ledesma, who is excited to see the impact ex-Wallabies coach Cheika will have on the team.

"The fact Michael can now be physically at training and in contact with the boys is great," Ledesma told the team website "He's very enthusiastic about the team. He's a person who transmits a lot of confidence and believes a lot in what he does.

"He is very eager to work individually with the boys, so that will come in handy for the team."

Argentina were due to open their tournament against world champions South Africa on Nov. 7, but the latter’s withdrawal from the competition over player welfare concerns has given the Pumas an extra week to prepare for a clash with New Zealand.

With Argentina's European-based players only arriving in Australia this week and heading directly into 14 days of quarantine, Ledesma is grateful for the extra preparation time.

"The reality is that the boys from Europe were only going to be able to come out of quarantine on Nov. 4, so preparing the team was going to be very difficult for that first game against the Springboks," he said.

Argentina are hoping to have three friendly matches before meeting the formidable New Zealand side.

"The friendlies are essential," Ledesma said. "Having the possibility to play three games before New Zealand seems like little preparation, but for us it is very important."

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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