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'It's difficult for them to be bad two games in a row': Ledesma's word of warning

The Argentina head coach was in good form at his post-match press conference.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium

MARIO LEDESMA MADE quite an impression at Friday’s pre-match press conference, and the Argentina head coach continued in a similar vein post-match deep in the bowels of the Aviva Stadium.

“Guys, we don’t have a press officer,” he says. “Whenever a hard question comes, we’re going to leave.”

Bautista Delguy scores a try Delguy crosses for Argentina's try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A more mischievous and charismatic head coach you are unlikely to find, and despite the result on Saturday evening, there was plenty to like about Argentina’s performance in Dublin. Ledesma certainly wasn’t too down about it.

“One of the goals we set before the game is when we get into the arm-wrestle that Ireland love was let’s dig in and stick to it,” he began.

They certainly made Joe Schmidt’s side work for it.

The lead exchanged hands six times under the Lansdowne lights during a bruising, if not error-prone, Test match before Ireland — dominant at the scrum — wore the Pumas down and bullied them into submission after the break. 

Compromised at scrum-time due to the unavailability of three frontline props, Argentina paid the price as three of Ireland’s tries came from that platform, with man-of-the-match James Ryan, Dan Leavy, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander leading from the front.

“Obviously scrum and one lineout wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t up to the level, but in the phases, structure and generally in defence we dug deep and we stuck in,” Ledesma continued.

“You can have a game plan but you never know how the game is going to roll. I thought when were clinical in the first half we were really in the game but in the second half we were in the game on the scoreboard, but they were coming and coming and coming and whenever we had the ball we weren’t clinical enough.

“We weren’t clinical enough and we didn’t have enough ball in the second half. The few balls we had we didn’t do anything with it.”

As well as disrupting Ireland’s normally efficient and effective lineout through the work of their three locks, and in particular second row-turned-flanker Guido Petti, Argentina targeted the hosts aerially, putting Jordan Larmour under pressure at fullback.

This was in addition to a varied attacking game which caused Ireland problems in the first period, as Nicolas Sanchez kicked three penalties and Bautista Delguy finished off a brilliant team move in this near corner. 

“Our kicking wasn’t very clinical,” lamented Ledesma. “We had a plan there and our execution let us down a little bit because obviously to have a good kicking game, you have to be able to contest a ball.

“A little bit disappointed about the execution of the kicking game. You don’t want to give him [Larmour] time, he’s an extraordinary player. Our back three are pretty elusive too and whenever we have a little bit of time, they can play footy. Same thing with Larmour, whenever you give him time he can play footy.”

Mario Ledesma Ledesma in the post-match press conference. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He said of the lineout contest: “Petti got a couple of balls there and we are pretty good in defensive lineouts so we always apply quite a lot of pressure there. Your main man [Devin Toner] wasn’t there so maybe there was a little bit of…maybe confusion. I don’t want to put pressure on selection for next week, that’s a big game.”

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Speaking of which. 

Ledesma and Argentina are familiar with the All Blacks from the Rugby Championship and ahead of next week’s clash at the Aviva Stadium, the Pumas head coach had a word of warning for Schmidt’s side.

“I haven’t watched the game today [v England], but if they were bad it’s difficult for them to be bad two games in a row.”

So does that mean New Zealand need to be bad for Ireland to have any chance of beating them on Saturday?

“That’s a very good question,” muses Ledesma. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. They [Ireland] already beat them in the United States and they did it again against England.

For us to beat them, yeah, they have to be bad and we have to be very good. For Ireland maybe a little bit less. They have to be average and Ireland good, very good and you beat them.

Back to last night’s game, and Argentina captain Pablo Matera said the pace Ireland play at is not too dissimilar to the southern hemisphere teams.

Schmidt’s side stuttered their way through an uncharacteristically sloppy performance for large parts, but their set-piece dominance yielded tries for Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki and Luke McGrath to record a 10th straight win at the Aviva. 

“Ireland play the ball less than three seconds so it’s very similar to maybe Australia, New Zealand,” Matera said.

Matias Alemanno and Joey Carbery Matias Alemanno shakes hands with Joey Carbery. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It was really physical as well, maybe they don’t have the big guys like South Africa or Australia, but they are really physical guys as well and they play the ball really fast. 

“We defended most of the time and when we had the ball, we weren’t good enough. They have a good defence and we couldn’t take advantage of our attack and when they had it, we defend for long and every time it ended up in a penalty, we had to defend again and we couldn’t get the ball in our hands.”

Overall, Ledesma — who only took the reins during the summer — is pleased with his side’s development 12 months out from the World Cup. With games against France, Scotland and the Barbarians to come on this tour, they are a work in progress.

“You need to keep in mind this is a process,” he added.

“We only got the team two weeks before the Rugby Championship. We have in mind the World Cup, but we’re still developing players. We only have one franchise, not like you guys who have four. The only chance to get them in the deep end of the pool is here, with us.

“I’m not putting out excuses because that’s not in our DNA but that’s just the reality. We still have to develop players because if we don’t do it nobody else will.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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