Wallabies assistant coach Mario Ledesma has paid tribute to Michael Cheika after confirming he'll return home to his native Argentina to take charge of the Jaguares Super Rugby team.
Ledesma will assume the head coaching role after Australia's third and final Bledisloe Cup clash against New Zealand in Brisbane on October 21. The 44-year-old former hooker won 84 caps for the Pumas across a distinguished 16-year Test career before Cheika - in his then-role as head coach of French powerhouse State Francais - swiftly signed Ledesma as his assistant in Paris.
Ledesma then joined Cheika in Sydney at NSW Waratahs for the start of the 2015 Super Rugby season before signing on as Australia's forwards coach ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
"While I'm very excited to move home to Argentina and get involved with the Jaguares, I do leave Australia and the Wallabies with a heavy heart," Ledesma said. "I'm an extremely proud Argentinian and I bleed blue and white, but the Wallabies have been a second family for me.
"Michael (Cheika) gave me an incredible opportunity and I cannot thank him enough for his support, not only in my development as a coach but off the field too. This is an amazing group of players and staff with the Wallabies right now, which made this decision even harder. They have made my time in Australia so memorable and I can't thank them enough for everything."
Cheika was glowing in his praise for Ledesma.
"Argentina gave us a gift when they gave us Mario Ledesma," he said. "In 2014, when we went on the tour, when I first took over, we got our scrum pummelled by the English in one game and if you're a good person when you get a gift, you should always give one back.
"Now we're giving a gift back because Mario Ledesma is a good man. It's going to be a great thing for Argentinian rugby and hopefully the Jaguares will do very well except when they play against the Australian teams."