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Dublin: 1°C Friday 23 April 2021

Argentina hero Sanchez learned from 'best player of all time' Wilkinson at Toulon

The Pumas fly-half also praised opposite number Matt Giteau ahead of Sunday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia.

Image: Christophe Ena

NICOLÁS SÁNCHEZ was coolness personified during Argentina’s 43-20 demolition of Ireland.

The 26-year-old gave a masterclass in goal-kicking as his 23-point haul helped Argentina secure their spot in the World Cup semi-finals.

Sanchez, who spent five months with Toulon last season as injury cover for Frederic Michalak, has cited Jonny Wilkinson as a key influence in his career.

Wilkinson retired following the 2014 season and now acts as a specialist skills for the French heavyweights.

“For me if I had to choose the best player in rugby of all time I would name Wilkinson. He’s a legend,” said the Pumas number ten.

“I tried to take as much advantage as possible when I was there with him in Toulon, and probably he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”

For Sanchez, developing his game under the watchful eye of the 2003 World Cup-winner was a hugely beneficial experience.

With Wilkinson we worked a lot on skills, especially kicking,” Sanchez explained.

“He would focus hugely on details, but he would also talk in great length about the mentality you need to succeed as a kicker.

“That’s very, very important, and it was something he told us to spend a lot of time focusing on.”

France Top 14 Final Rugby Ex-Toulan star Wilkinson. Source: AP/Press Association Images

This Sunday, Sanchez will look to dictate the Pumas attack once more. Opposite him will be another former Toulon colleague in Matt Giteau, the 100-cap midfield maestro.

“He’s an excellent player,” said Sanchez. “I didn’t have a lot of chances to play with him because he was injured most of the time when I was at Toulon.

“But he’s a great player, he can run an attack, he makes good decisions and is aggressive in defence.

He’s a key player for them and will challenge us.”

The Pumas have a maestro of their own in the form of Juan Martín Hernández who has dove-tailed beautifully with Sanchez throughout the tournament.

Hernandez was the director-in-chief of the Pumas side that stormed to third place during the 2007 World Cup.

The man known as ‘El Mago’ missed the 2011 showpiece due to knee injury but has flourished during the current instalment playing a more subtle, playmaking role, at inside centre.

“Juan is a hero in the team, he means a lot to the team, he’s a great leader for us,” added Sanchez.

“He’s a second fly-half as well, playing from 12, so he simplifies a lot of the things we have to do.

“And that is a great help to me.”

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