ON AN ABSOLUTELY torrid day in south Dublin, a squad of South Americans ramped up their preparations for another run-in with Ireland.
With UCD washed by showers bordering on the biblical, Argentina players peeled off an outer layer and took the field in Belfield to blow off cobwebs.
This being November, it’s time for contemplating the sort of fatigue the Pumas may be feeling after a long season of Super Rugby and six punishing games in the Rugby Championship. It’s a month since their last Test, a match that was probably far more punishing mentally than physically as they coughed up a 31-7 half-time lead and contrived to lose to a Wallabies side battling their way out of a corner.
“We had some weeks in Argentina to rest,” says scrum-half Martin Landajo, looking none-to0 tired strolling in out of the elements after a high-tempo training session.
“We had like two weeks to rest after the Rugby Championship and we’re much better now. I think the team had a good year in preparation so I think we are very good for these Tests.”
The physical toll is hardly eased by the all-Jaguares touring squad, meaning a similar group has been playing together since the southern hemisphere season kicked off in February. Landajo sees the positive in following the sole club model as he hopes it will lay the foundation for more.
“I guess in the years to come we will have more teams and we will be much better. We will have more players and the national team will be much better. But I think for now we are doing fine. We are going up, we are learning. Just three years in the Super Rugby so everything is very new for us. I think in 10 years time we will have more teams, more players and it will be much better for Argentina.”
Perhaps we’re letting the Pumas’ wooden spoon in the Rugby Championship colour their current status too much. They won two of the six Tests during that Championship including away in Australia. The Jaguares finished seventh in Super Rugby this season, with only one Australian and one South African side occupying the Kiwi-dominated places above them.
Under Mario Ledesma and Gonzalo Quesada, they are building anew. And who would back against them upsetting France or England when the serious business begins in Japan next year?
“This year we started to change our game. We have started to kick more of the ball. We want to give the pressure to them and increase the pressure in the field so it’s a good thing. We are working on it.
We have changed a bit. We used to play every ball and now we are trying to be half and half, change it up.
“I think that’s similar to Ireland. They also kick the ball a lot so we will have to play with ball in hand but we have new weapons. I think we are a bit similar (to Ireland).”
The inclement weather made testing those weapons all the more difficult yesterday, but a bit of rain doesn’t hurt training so long as players are safely on grass. There were some precarious steps off the bus and into the UCD Bowl, with hooker Agustin Creevy needing to fling out a hand to steady himself as traction was lost between his foot and the final step he made off the bus.
It was a long way from that famous day under a Cardiff roof when Argentina made no mis-steps when powering their way through Ireland and into another World Cup semi-final.
“Yeah. Nice day,” grins Landajo, who started in the Albiceleste number nine shirt that day.
Dripping wet, clutching a post-training protein shake and a banana, meandering down memory lane isn’t easy, but Ireland’s fans in Cardiff stand out to him, along with a powerful Puma defensive effort.
“After the match they were very polite, so that was a good thing. For us it was a great game, we played very well.and Ireland played well too.
“We have to increase our defence. That day the defence was very good. Ireland is a team that loves to have the ball and make lots of phases. On that day we had great defence. So we’re going to have to bring it this Saturday.”
Whatever the weather.