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Argentina's rugby coach: French players 'went off with our women in 1980s'

Mario Ledesma, the coach of Argentina's national rugby team, suggests Saturday's Test against France will feature a bit of extra spice with comment.

Friday 16 November, 2018
Argentina's head coach Mario Ledesma (left) talks during a press conference with flanker and captain Pablo Matera on November 16, 2018 at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium, in Lille, on the eve of the rugby union Test match against France.
Argentina's head coach Mario Ledesma (left) talks during a press conference with flanker and captain Pablo Matera on November 16, 2018 at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium, in Lille, on the eve of the rugby union Test match against France. Foto:Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

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Mario Ledesma, the coach of Argentina's national rugby team, suggested that Saturday's Test against France would feature a bit of extra history – because of the apparent close links between the two nations and their people.

Addressing the match at a press conference, he joked that "quite a few [French] players from the 1980s went off with our women."

France toured Argentina on three different occasions between 1985-1988.

"We're both Latin, we have family links. It [the fixture] has always had a special feel to it. Quite a few players from the 1980s went off with our women," he added with a smile.

Ledesma is one of many Argentinians to have played and coached French clubs having worked with the likes of Montpellier and Stade Francais as well as having worn the colours of Clermont, Castres and Narbonne. 

The Pumas play France in Lille on Saturday with the two sides looking for confidence-boosting victories less than a year away from the Rugby World Cup where they will meet in their opening fixture of the tournament.

Ledesma praised Jacques Brunel's outfit despite a poor current record of only two wins in nine games this year.

"I understand the results haven't been impressive but they've been up there with the best," he said. 

"They were on par with Ireland and England and almost beat a vastly-improved South Africa," Ledesma added.

Bogey team

France welcome Argentina to Lille seeking to avoid an 11th defeat by the Pumas since the turn of the century. As bogey teams go, Argentina give France an itch like no other, and have done so for more than two decades.

In 20 years, under five different coaches, various French sides, featuring stars such as Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Chabal and Thierry Dusautoir, have only managed seven victories over the South Americans.

Two of the most notable meetings came at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. In the opening game, with French fans expecting a positive start to the tournament, Agustín Pichot's Pumas silenced the 79,000 crowd at Stade de France with a 17-12 win. Three weeks later, they upset the locals once again to claim third place with a thumping 34-10 victory across Paris at the Parc des Princes. 

Twelve years on the sides will meet again in their opening fixture at the World Cup in Japan.

Brunel doesn't think this weekend's result will have any bearing on what happens next September.

"Whatever the result, it will have very little effect on the World Cup match, even if we think it could have a psychological impact," he said

"We're in completely different circumstances, for me that match will be different to the one on the weekend."

Familiar foes

Saturday's visitors have a French feel, on and off the field. Three members of the Argentine coaching staff – Ledesma, Martín Gaitan and Gonzalo Quesada – have all played and coached in France's Top 14. Quesada coached Stade Francais to the title in 2015.

Fly-half Nicolás Sánchez has played for Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon and will join Stade after the November internationals. Second-row Tomás Lavanini spent the 2014-2015 season with Racing 92.

Brunel said the familiarity gives Argentina an advantage but it will not be the deciding factor heading into the clash at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

"Clearly they know our players better than we know theirs," he said.

"It has an implication, but I don't think it will determine the outcome of the match."

Brunel praised the work Ledesma has done since he took over from Daniel Hourcade, who stepped down from his position in June.

"It's a team which has evolved over the years. They have played with much more ambition since the new coach took over," Brunel said.

"They're a quality side, which they've showed throughout their games in the Southern Hemisphere."

Ledesma's side have lost three successive matches and Brunel's outfit haven't won since March's Six Nations victory over England.

The Pumas lost 28-17 to Ireland in Dublin last weekend and France fell 29-26 to South Africa.

The focus in Lille will be on ending those losing runs, but that date next autumn will be in the back of the two coaches' minds.

- AFP

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