NRL superstar Nathan Cleary has been giving Argentina players kicking tips as they look to notch back-to-back victories over the All Blacks in the Tri Nations on Saturday night.
Soaking up the NRL off-season after Penrith’s grand final defeat and then the NSW State of Origin series loss, Cleary was at the Pumas’ training at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday.
Through a connection with his kicking coach Daryl Halligan, Cleary turned out to give some of the young Pumas some pointers – to the delight of Argentina coach Mario Ledesma, who became a rugby league fan while an assistant coach at the Wallabies and the NSW Waratahs.
Cleary, who received some mid-season advice himself from AFL premiership captain Trent Cotchin, is noted as one of the sharpest boots in the NRL.
“His kicking coach is in New Zealand and he couldn’t come so he offered Nathan to come and give some pointers to the boys,” Ledesma said.
“I thought it was really nice of him to come and give us a hand.
“Being a big rugby league fan I was happy to have him.”
The Pumas woke up to news of the death of Argentine football great Diego Maradona, who had attended many of their tests including those at the 2015 World Cup.
Ledesma said the coaching staff felt his passing more than the players, who had only seen his legendary acts online.
Playing 84 tests, Ledesma said he had met Maradona several times and recalled his impact at a Pumas-All Blacks match.
All Blacks captain Sam Cane has admitted he was "a wee bit" surprised by the backlash he received after comments he made about fans following the side's loss to Argentina a fortnight ago. #AllBlacks #ARGvNZL #TriNations https://t.co/ImG7B4yCyy
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 27, 2020
“We were playing against the All Blacks, the game was started and Diego came out and waved and everything stopped,” Ledesma said.
“We Argentinians all stopped and looked up, and the All Blacks stopped.
“The world stopped when he was there, he had a kind of magic.”
Ledesma said the Pumas would try to honour him on the field at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“He’s a big figure in our country and he epitomised a lot of the way the Argentinians are,” he said.
“We’ll try to remember him the best way possible, which was on the field representing the colours, and use that as an example of how to play for this jersey.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now