herald

Saturday 16 February 2019

Felipe: Argentina will 'play hard'

Contepomi says Argentina are improving
Contepomi says Argentina are improving

Leinster's love affair with Felipe Contepomi did not engulf the entire island of Ireland.

Certainly, Ronan O'Gara's Munster viewed the legendary Pumas out-half as an over-hyped so and so.

Then again, it is always the great ones that really get under your skin.

When it came to international rugby, even die-hard Blues had to concede Contepomi caused more hurt than happiness to our boys in green.

Argentina have been Ireland's most consistent nemesis at the Rugby World Cup.

The Leinster backs coach has earned a two-week break from the PRO14 during the international window, through which Argentina will climb to put a stop to Ireland's gallop.

Their new regime, headed up by Mario Ledesma, is still searching for consistency of performance. There is a fear that when they do find their rhythm mentally and physically, it will mean bad news for whoever stands in their way.

Could the South Americans marry their magnificence with an 80-minute mentality at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening?

"With Argentina, it is a team that is finding their way with new coaches starting to get their style of rugby and, on the day, they can be very good," said Contepomi.

"Definitely, it will be a very proud team. It is Argentina, a team that comes and tries to play hard."

It was just a few short months ago that Ledesma (above) was the leader of the Jaguares in the Super XV, their only professional team. The transition is more a matter of new strategies rather than new and improved personnel.

"Argentina is maturing. It is learning, more than learning, it is trying to get bits and pieces together," he said.

"The advantage, well not advantage, is the head coach of Argentina, Ledesma, has been with most of these guys with the Jaguares for the whole year.

"You can expect that Jaguares style of rugby," he said.

The danger of the Pumas is that they can switch from bad to brilliant and back again in the blink of an eye.

They have not reverted to their traditional set-piece bravado, even though they are still one of the great Tests there.

The slicing and dicing of defences on the outside are their preferred methods of dissection. The 2015 World Cup quarter-final win against Ireland in Cardiff remains the standard for how they want to play the game.

However, they have not been able to consistently stitch together the 80 minutes required at the highest level.

This could have something to do with the fact that what works in club rugby does not always transfer to the Test arena.

"Circumstances change, international and Super Rugby are different rugby situations," said Contepomi.

"But, you can see more of the Jaguares style of rugby has been there through the whole year, through the Rugby Championship."

Argentina have made a habit out of saving their best form for Ireland. It is a habit the Irish will have to break.

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