31 years after the All Blacks, Pumas to play Randwick at Coogee Oval before the World Cup

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Argentina’s Pumas are set to take on Shute Shield club Randwick ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup, more than 31 years after the proud Sydney team faced the All Blacks.

The Argentinians are set to make a pitstop in Sydney for a 10-day camp on their way to the Rugby World Cup, with a game against the Wicks slated for Coogee Oval roughly a fortnight out from their Septermber 21 tournament opener. The date is yet to be confirmed.

Sydney’s east has been a home away home from for Pumas coach Mario Ledesma, who lived in the area when he was working with the Waratahs and Wallabies, and it proved the perfect way to break up their trip to the World Cup.

“I like the place and we wanted a hard game but not that hard so we're playing Randwick, that's we're talking about that,” he said.

“That'll be two weeks away from the first game.

"We're trying an opposed training after that, in the week in Japan before the World Cup, might try get something over there but we're far away from everybody, so maybe we're training against each other, just going a little bit harder."

Ledesma said they felt stopping in Sydney would help the side adjust to the Japanese conditions and time zone away from the bubble of the World Cup.

“It cuts the trip in half, it's a  very long trip from Argentina, it's almost 38 hours or something,” he said.

“So we'd prefer to come over here, then stay a couple of days over here and then get rid of the jetlag and then you just go up north."

Argentina will arrive in Sydney on August 31, three weeks out from their first Rugby World Cup match against France, before they travel to the tournament.

Ledesma said he had considered other possibilities for a stopover, including some time in Perth and a potential clash with the Force, but ultimately landed on his former stomping ground.

“We were looking for a game to play before the World Cup and...we were trying to play against Perth but obviously we had to go to Perth and it was quite tricky to go over there and then there was another option coming through Europe but you still have jet lag coming through Europe,” he said.

“I thought it was ideal and I feel good coming over here and the boys do too, so they like it.”

While it might not be a full-blown international, Ledesma said it would be a helpful final tuneup, before the main event.

“We were talking about if we wanted to do 80 or do maybe 3x30, we'll see but i think we'll do just a normal game,” he said.

“That'll be our last game before the World Cup but it won’t be like we haven't been playing footy because the boys have been playing for a while now.”

The match comes 31 years after a Randwick team that included England coach Eddie Jones and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika took on the All Blacks at Coogee Oval in 1988.

New Zealand won that game 25-9 but it’s a day that has gone down in rugby folklore.

This time around, there could be a host of Super Rugby players featuring in the Galloping Greens side, along with Junior Wallabies pair Will Harrison and Ben Donaldson.

Depending on the final Wallabies’ World Cup squad, the host side could even include current Test player Ned Hanigan, who missed the cut for the first Rugby Championship squad.

Former Wallabies hooker Adam Freier is also still playing for the Wicks.

The Pumas are testing out their camp spot already, spending three days in Coogee in Sydney's east before travelling to Brisbane for this weekend's Suncorp Stadium Test against the Wallabies.

The Wallabies take on the Pumas on Saturday July 27 at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on Network Ten, FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.