Wallabies' best yet to come: Ledesma

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies might have their fair share of doubters as they head into the Rugby World Cup but Argentina coach Mario Ledesma is certainly not one of them.

Ledesma has been keeping a close eye on the Wallabies, even outside of weeks where they played each other this year, with the chance that Argentina and Australia could cross over in a quarter-final.

The Wallabies ground out a win over Argentina when they faced off in Brisbane last month, before a win over the All Blacks in Perth a fortnight later and a disappointing defeat in Auckland.

Ledesma, who was part of the Wallabies staff from 2015 through to 2017, said while that final Bledisloe Test might be one they'd want to forget, the Wallabies had shown different threats in the Rugby Championship.

“Obviously I imagined they wanted a better result, especially in that last game against the All Blacks, I was definitely going for them,” he said.

“I would've wanted to be there - I feel close to the team, to most of the players, I coached them, shared a lot of really good moments and some bad moments and the staff too and obviously Cheik.

"So I was following with a lot of enthusiasm, the new vibe in the team.

“They're playing much more direct rugby, with a lot of physicality, they have really big boys centre of the field, Kerevi- Kuridrani it doesn't get any bigger than that and obviously second row with (Izack) Rodda playing great rugby, (Adam) Coleman's coming back, backrow (Isi) Naisarani and Lukhan (Salakaia-Loto).

“It's one of the most physical teams in the world I think and I think the best is yet to come for this team.

“I wouldn't be surprised to see Australia go really far in this World Cup.”

The Wallabies have taken themselves offshore ahead of the tournament, with a 10-day camp in Noumea finishing on Wednesday, in a preparation similar to that of 2015 when Cheika took Australia to the USA before the England campaign.

Ledesma expected the Wallabies to have been put through their paces in the camp but said it wouldn’t be a carbon copy of that 2015 lead-in.

“There'll be a lot of similar things (to 2015) , especially in terms of the effort they have to put in,” he said.

“Cheik likes the guys to work really hard and push themselves and push to their limits but it's a coach that reinvents himself all the time and it's really demanding with his staff in terms of innovation stuff.

“I know they'll be doing some hills and stairs and stuff like that and really pushing themselves but I'm sure that Cheik has something under his sleeve.”

Ledesma said he has been drawing on his experiences working with Cheika, who he coached with at Stade Francais, the Waratahs and Wallabies, as he prepared his own squad for the World Cup.

“In a lot of stuff definitely,” he said.

“He's definitely one of my mentors and he's the one that gave me my first chance in coaching in  Paris and then when I left Montpellier, the same week Cheika was calling me to come to the Waratahs.

“I will always be grateful with Cheik. I'm really happy and honoured to call him a friend.”

The Pumas will be playing right in Cheika’s neck of the woods on Saturday when they face Randwick in their final World Cup hitout but Ledesma said he wasn’t worried about Wallabies spies keeping an eye on them.

“I mean, we've been training here (in Sydney) all week and there's cameras everywhere.

“Like Cheik used to say, everything has been invented in rugby union, we have nothing to hide and today the structures are very similar from one team to the other and then it's all about physicality and winning your one on ones and set piece and kicking game.

“I don't think there's anything to hide.”

Argentina takes on Randwick at Coogee Oval on Saturday September 7, kicking off at 2:30pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel.