Wallabies bracing for new Argentina

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The DNA of Argentinian rugby is changing, according to Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma.

Former Argentinian Ledesma played 84 Tests for the Pumas, retiring in 2011 and said the South Americans were a different rugby beast now.

“My last game was five years ago so that's how much I know from them now, I mean I've never been involved with this coaching staff,” he said.

“Most of the players could be my sons.

Mario Ledesma in action for Argentina. Photo: Getty Images“When I played we didn't throw the ball around a lot and this team does it a lot. So, the DNA's changed a little bit, they're focusing on other skills.”

Argentina’s offloading game against the All Blacks epitomised the improvement that the Pumas have made, but it was no surprise to Ledesma.

“They worked for that,” he said.

“Whenever they started playing Rugby Championship and now Super Rugby that was the main focus, on skills.

“I think they're doing a great job.”

Tomas Cubelli gets a pass away for Argentina against the All Blacks. Photo: Getty ImagesThe inclusion of the Jaguares in Super Rugby this season and the Pumas into the Rugby Championship in 2012 has accelerated the development of Argentinian rugby, simply by virtue of familiarising them with the world’s best, Ledesma said.

Under the Super Rugby conference system, the Jaguares didn’t play any Australian teams this time around but they did play all five New Zealand teams.

“Even though the results weren't there (for the Jaguares), the experience and the fact that they're playing against these players all the time, makes it more tangible,” Ledesma said.

“Before, they were only playing once every five years against Australia, once every seven years against the All Blacks so it was difficult to feel that you can beat them.

“Today they're playing week in, week out against them, then they play Rugby Championship.

“They've got already a couple of wins under their belt so I think the whole Super Rugby experience is exactly that, the experience of playing these players week in, week out and knowing that they can beat them.”

This weekend will be the third time Ledesma faces off against his home nation and he said every match against the Pumas was significant.

Ledesma says Argentina have changed their ways. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“I get a lot of bagging over there, some calls and everybody treating me like I'm a traitor or something but it's all good,” he joked.

“It's a good thing that I'm in the stands and I'm not playing but it's always special.

“Obviously I played a long time for them and I'm a very proud Argentinian.

“The team and the coaching staff over there, I'm really good friends with and they've always been really supportive of what I'm doing over here so there's no issues there.”

The Wallabies host Argentina at nib Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Buy tickets here.