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A World Cup-winning coach had a huge influence on Argentina's style

New Zealander Graham Henry is the man who sparked a new way of thinking for the Pumas.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Vale Resort

MUCH HAS BEEN made of the style of rugby Argentina have played at this World Cup, mixing their traditional forward power with an apparently increased willingness to offload the ball in contact.

Wing pair Santiago Cordero and Juan Imhoff are two of the stars of the tournament so far, as the Pumas scored 22 tries in four games to finish second in Pool C behind New Zealand.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool C - Argentina v Tonga - Leicester City Stadium Diego Maradona cheered the Pumas on in the pool stages. Source: Mike Egerton

Daniel Hourcade’s side haven’t simply produced this attacking ambition from nowhere, however. It has been three years in the making.

Hourcade took over as head coach in 2013, but it was 2011 World Cup winner Graham Henry’s arrival as an assistant a year earlier that was pivotal.

“Graham arrived and I remember he said that we needed to make more tries,” says scrum-half Martín Landajo. “We had a great defence, Argentina was one of the best defences in the world, but we didn’t attack as much.

“He said it was impossible to win games like this, that we could defend for 80 minutes but we wouldn’t win. So he tried to change our minds. It wasn’t easy but now with Daniel, he also follows this line.

He likes to play, he likes to attack and we try to change our attacking game. We won’t leave the defence behind, but we focus more on attack.”

Argentinian rugby has more traditionally been known as heavily based on the forward pack and, particularly, the scrum. Whether that reputation is totally fair to some classy backs of yesteryear is another argument, but this vintage of the Pumas has broken the mould.

Argentinian football has long had a different reputation, with legends like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi known for their attacking genius.

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“Football in Argentina is like that, we have the best players, Messi and Maradona. We like to play and not just to defend,” says Landajo. “Argentinian football always liked to attack a lot and rugby didn’t. Now we’re changing that.”

Britain Rugby WCup Argentina Tonga Landajo with out-half Nico Sanchez after a try against Tonga. Source: Rui Vieira

The transformation certainly looked complete at times during Argentina’s entertaining pool campaign, although the relative weakness of Namibia in their most recent outing must be taken into account.

Certainly the Pumas expect Sunday in Cardiff to be the greatest test of their attacking approach and how successful it can be.

“Now we have developed a much better rugby, but I think that our pool games were tough but this (quarter-final against Ireland) is harder,” says Landajo. “We will try to do the same rugby, but now is the real test of it.

I think we’re playing against a great team and they will have the ball and try to attack us. I don’t want to underestimate our group teams, Tonga and Namibia, but it’s true that they’re not as big a team that Ireland are.

“Ireland are one of the best teams. They have one of the best attacking games. They defend well of course, but I like the way they attack. It’s much more similar to the Southern Hemisphere, where you’re dynamic in attack, moving the ball.

“Maybe the other Northern Hemisphere sides are slower, maybe France or England, a bit slower. Ireland is one of the best teams in the world.”

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Murray Kinsella

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