Ledesma facing divided loyalties

Date published: October 21 2015

Australia's Argentinian scrum coach Mario Ledesma will face divided loyalties when the Wallabies take on los Pumas in their Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham on Sunday.

Ledesma, who represented his country in 84 Tests between 1996 and 2011, played in four World Cups for Argentina and was one of their best players when they reached the semi-finals at the 2007 tournament in France.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika admitted that Ledesma will be an emotional man whatever the outcome of their clash with los Pumas.

“It’s very special for Mario,” said Cheika on Tuesday. 

“It’s obviously a big game for him, and he likes to shed a tear now and then in the dressing room or the team meeting just for a bit of fun.

“I remember when we went to Mendoza to play Argentina in the Rugby Championship and we were walking up the stairs before the match and I said to him, ‘Are you going to sing your anthem, the Argentine anthem?’ And he wasn’t sure if he was allowed or not.

“I said, ‘Of course, that’s your heritage’ and I want him to love that. 

"But I know he loves this team, he loves being involved in this team and he’ll do anything he possibly can this week to make sure this team is in the best possible spot going forward.”

Cheika revealed that Ledesma's professionalism will not prevent him from continuing to put everything into the Wallabies’ team he has learned to love over the past year.

“Mario has the knowledge, the technique and a philosophy and the dedication to go to the end," he added. 

"He spends his time reflecting on what he is going to do so he doesn't just arrive at training and make up his mind there and then.

“He also takes players to one side and deals with them individually. 

"So he has also been a success on the human front as he has touched the players in a very positive way with his emotions.”

Cheika first used Ledesma's expertise as a scrum guru at the Waratahs before also using the 42-year-old's services to help improve the  Wallabies' set-piece.

Ledesma's contribution has not gone unnoticed and Wallabies prop Scott Sio is a big fan of his coaching methods.

“He’s tough at training but he’s very passionate about what he does and it really rubs off onto everyone,” said Sio. 

“And everyone really enjoys coming in for scrum sessions. In the past, people looked at scrums and thought ‘oh no, scrum sessions’ but we really enjoy it. He’s brought a great vibe to the unit session as a whole and everyone’s buying into it.

“He’s made us understand that attitude is half the battle out there. As strong as you can be and however great your technique is, if you’re not prepared to get on top of your opposition you’ve already lost half the battle. 

"We’ve had some very heated sessions during the week and that’s what you need going into these big games.”

On Sunday Ledesma's troops face their biggest challenge yet against los Pumas who are renowned for their scrummaging prowess.

“It’s obviously a big week for Mario, very emotional, but he’ll stay focused on getting our scrum to improve,” said Cheika. 

“And it needs to improve because there is obviously a very strong Argentina scrum waiting for us.”