Argentina rely on tried and tested Jaguares for World Cup

Coach Mario Ledesma of the Jaguares during the Super Rugby quarter final match between Emirates Lions and Jaguares at Emirates Airline Park on July 21, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Coach Mario Ledesma of the Jaguares during the Super Rugby quarter final match between Emirates Lions and Jaguares at Emirates Airline Park on July 21, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Argentina head to the Rugby World Cup relying heavily on the tried and tested, with their squad made up almost entirely of the Jaguares side that reached the final of the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby tournament.

Coach Mario Ledesma has picked 26 Jaguares for Japan, with France-based loose forward Facundo Isa the most notable omission when he named his 31-man squad last month.

The Pumas take on France in their September 21 Pool C opener, with Ledesma hoping they can repeat their shock 17-12 win against the World Cup hosts in 2007, which propelled Argentina to a third-placed finish in the tournament.

"There are obvious similarities," said Ledesma.

"We see similar things now as to how the players feel, how they love each other, how they want the shirt, how they defend. Hopefully we will have the same result."

French full-back Maxime Medard has targeted the game as "an all or nothing match" if either side hopes to reach the quarter-finals.

Lose to France in Tokyo and Argentina will have to beat pool-favourites England to reach the quarter-finals, a tall order for a nation that has slipped to 11th in the world rankings.

The other teams in the group are low-ranking United States and Tonga.

A problem for Argentina's opponents will be keeping centre Matias Moroni quiet. The 28-year-old can open up the tightest defence with his darting runs from deep, which were a key feature of Jaguares' march to the Super Rugby final.

The club's flanker Pablo Matera will captain a national team that has won just eight of 41 internationals since finishing fourth at the last World Cup, in England and Wales four years ago.

Argentina went down 24-18 to an experimental South Africa side in Pretoria last month - their ninth straight defeat since beating Australia away last September.

But playing in the Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa has given the Pumas valuable experience heading to Japan.

And the year of defeats don't tell the full story - a second-half onslaught against the All Blacks in July saw the Pumas narrowly beaten 20-16 in Buenos Aires.

And Ledesma is hoping the success of the Jaguares will be transferred to the World Cup.

"The boys have prepared all year to be world champions. You have to dream big," he said.

Former Pumas hooker Ledesma was chosen for four consecutive World Cup tournaments between 1999 and 2011 and loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon, now 36, equals that record after making the squad for Japan.

Only two Argentina-based non-Jaguares made the squad, plus France-based fly-halves Nicolas Sanchez and Benjamin Urdapilleta and prop Juan Figallo from English club Saracens.

- AFP

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