"I don't know how he's a head coach": Larkham sledges good mate Ledesma

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham has a sense of humour as dry as the Sahara and has shown as much with a sarcastic swipe at good mate and Argentina coach Mario Ledesma.

Ledesma, who was on the Wallabies staff this time last year, will coach against Australia for the first time on Saturday when the Pumas take on Michael Cheika's side on the Gold Coast.

Larkham's association with Ledesma isn't quite as long as Cheika's but it isn't far off - the pair were side by side as Cheika's right hand men from the 2015 World Cup onwards.

That friendship paved the way for a lengthy sledge from Larkham about Ledesma, when media quizzed him on Tuesday about their upcoming contest.

"I’ve got too much disrespect for Mario to play mind games with him," Larkham said.

"He was here for a couple of years as an assistant coach and honestly I don’t know how he’s a head coach - he’s struggled as an assistant coach.

"I don’t know what he’s going to come up with this weekend, I expect a fair bit of scrummaging because that’s what he’s good at.

"Once the ball gets outside of the scrum he’s probably telling him to knock it on to get a scrum and then probably a fair bit of mauling.

"I can’t see how he’s had the limited success he’s had already."

Larkham continued by cheekily suggesting the set piece - Ledesma's specialty - will be a "carve up" come Saturday.

"(It) should be a carve up," he said.

"Should be but you never know with the Argies, bounce of the ball, all that sort of stuff.

"Set piece wise it will be a carve up.

"When we get to multi-phase they could do something.

"The ball could bounce their way and away they go. Got to be careful there."

He finished by sarcastically suggesting Ledesma had already "ripped off" elements of Australia's game.

"No doubt about that," he said.

"He came into a really good period of Australian rugby and he’s certainly going to take a lot of the stuff we did away with him.

"I’ve seen it already.

"Particularly the scrummaging stuff. A lot of the techniques I’d spoken to him about he’s implementing now."

On a far more serious note Larkham has poured over the tape from Saturday's win over the Springboks and handed both Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua a pass mark as the Wallabies' new 10-12 combination.

For Beale, taking the line on and subsequently straightening the attack up remains top priority.

"It was a good combination, Kurtley was very energetic when he got his hands on the ball and took a couple of opportunities to run and made a half little line break here or there which was good," Larkham said.

"He added some energy to the attack which is what we’ve been trying to do for a while. It culminated quite nicely on the weekend.

"I think he looked very good when he ran the ball but it’s not always the primary option for him to run.

"I think he’s got to look at the space on the field and identify where that is and he did it well on the weekend."

Larkham also wrapped the ability of both Beale and Toomua in dictating field position, identifying the team's overall finishing as a facet of the Wallabies' game which must improve ahead of the showdown with Argentina.

"We didn’t score as many tries as we would have liked to," he said.

"We got into their 22 a number of times but probably a lack of patience in that area hurt us maybe three or four times.

"If I look at the playmaking role in the team I thought they did a fantastic job with getting us into the 22 and then as a whole team we can do better in that 22."

The Wallabies face the Pumas at Robina Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 8pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten and RUGBY.com.au radio.