Argentina return to France for the Rugby World Cup 2023 and memories of the team that famously finished third in 2007 are unavoidable – but Felipe Contepomi, then a player and now the team’s assistant coach, brushes off the nostalgia: "We have to write our history: Los Pumas 2023.”
The assistant coach to Australian Michael Cheika was speaking on Monday in La Baule, north-west France, where the South American rugby giants are building up to an explosive World Cup opener against England in Marseille on Saturday.
"They are the big team in the group and they say they are ready for the World Cup. You have to analyse the opposition, but then it's more about what you can do and concentrating on what you're working on," said Contepomi.
"We expect a very physical game, the World Cup’s first games are special. England can come with anything and we have to be prepared. We have to be focused on what we know how to do and do it in the best possible way. It's going to be a very tough game," he continued.
Contepomi, 46, who played 86 games for the Pumas, avoids drawing parallels with the team that finished third 15 years ago.
"The personal memories I have are very good and I share them with the group. But the only similarity is that it's played in the same country, rugby is played completely differently now..... It doesn't help to go back to that time, to make parallels.
“We have to write our own history: Los Pumas 2023. The 2007 World Cup is another page in the rich history of the Pumas," he said.
"The World Cup is different from everything else, it's the most important competition in the sport. Everything is lived with a higher intensity. But I think we are doing well," added Contepomi.
Learning from 2019
Eliminated at the group stage four years ago at the World Cup in Japan, Argentina are competing in Pool D, which is completed by Samoa, Chile and Japan themselves.
Will it serve as a learning experience? "I wasn't there in 2019, I can't speak knowledgeably. But I think it's part of life, learning when things don't go well. From what I see, the maturity of the boys in this year and a half, those experiences, the good and not so good, have made them stronger and they have learnt," said Cheika's assistant.
Contepomi was joined at the press conference by veteran Tomás Lavanini, who was part of the squads that finished fourth at England 2015 and disappointing four years ago in Japan.
"I think we came much more prepared than in previous World Cups. Many people's heads have changed. We have a much more professional team, [one] that works, that wants more things, big things, that's great," said the 30-year-old second row.
Next to him sat Santiago Carreras, who arrived in 2019 as a debutant and is now a key part of Pumas side.
"I wasn't really aware of what was happening to me at the time, it took me by surprise and took me by surprise, now I arrive much more mature, from a rugby and personal point of view, so I'm going to enjoy it more," explained the 25-year-old openside.
"I think they are two very different situations compared to the last World Cup. These four years have been all about learning, continuing to grow as a player and continuing to grow in this group," he added.