Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma doesn’t believe the Wallabies should be written off as genuine World Cup contenders.
In fact, the man who assisted Michael Cheika in the Australian national set-up between 2015 and 2017 thinks that the world’s sixth-ranked side can go deep into the tournament for the third time running.
Ledesma, who played 84 tests over 15 years for the Pumas before turning to coaching in 2011, could come face to face with his former side in the quarter-finals, depending on how both teams fare in the pool stages.
Acting as an assistant coach after first being lured to Australia by Cheika during his time at the Waratahs in 2015, Ledesma oversaw Australia’s run to the final of the last World Cup, where they were defeated 34-17 by a strong All Blacks outfit.
He stayed onboard over the next two seasons before taking up a job offer to take charge of the Jaguares in Super Rugby, a role which has now taken him to the Argentinian national side.
The Wallabies have received much criticism over the past few seasons following a run of poor results, including last season where they won just four of 13 tests, but Ledesma isn’t counting out his old team from making a splash in Japan.
“It’s one of the most physical teams in the world, I think, and the best is yet to come for this team,” said Ledesma of the Wallabies.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Australia go really far in this World Cup.
“I imagine they wanted a better result, especially in that last game against the All Blacks [that Australia lost 36-0].
“I was following with a lot of enthusiasm [and there is] a new vibe. They are playing a lot more direct rugby with a lot of physicality and big boys in the centre of the field.
“[Samu] Kerevi and [Tevita] Kuridrani … it doesn’t get any bigger than that and obviously in the second row [Izack] Rodda is playing great rugby.”
Ledesma has brought his Argentinian side to Sydney for a pre-World Cup camp, which will be followed by a match against Shute Shield side Randwick at Coogee Oval on Saturday.
The Wallabies, meanwhile, are in a training camp of their own in New Caledonia as they prepare for their final World Cup warm-up match against Samoa at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney this weekend.
Argentina, placed in the ‘Pool of Death’ alongside England, France, Tonga and the United States, kick-off their World Cup campaign with a blockbusting clash against Les Bleus at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on September 21.
Australia begin their tournament a day later against Fiji in Sapporo.
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