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Rugby: Pumas scrum a major concern as World Cup approaches

Rugby: Pumas scrum a major concern as World Cup approaches
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby Championship - Argentina v New Zealand - Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina - July 20, 2019 Argentina coach Mario Ledesma REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian -
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AGUSTIN MARCARIAN(Reuters)
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(Reuters) – Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has precious little time to fix his side’s backpedalling scrum if they are to have an impact at the Rugby World Cup in two months’ time.

The Pumas were unable to compete with a Wallabies scrum that Ledesma himself had rebuilt when he was the team’s forwards coach under Michael Cheika in their 16-10 Rugby Championship loss in Brisbane.

Ledesma, however, was bemoaning his side’s inability to match it with Wallabies starters Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu before James Slipper and Taniela Tupou came on in the second half and kept the pressure on to earn a spate of scrum penalties.

Australia’s scrum also provided them with the foundation for Reece Hodge’s first-half try.

“My concern was much more the set-piece,” Ledesma said of the scrum’s woes.

“We have to continue practising our set pieces and have a look at where our tactics broke down.

“We ran out of options quite quickly.”

Ledesma, who was appointed to the role last year, had recognised that the Pumas scrum was nowhere near as strong as it once was, especially when they conceded three tries from the scrum against Ireland last November.

The former Pumas hooker has launched a centralised talent development programme under Eduardo Fernandez Gill, similar to that utilised by the All Blacks under Mike Cron, although that will not fix their immediate problems.

They face Six Nations heavyweights England and France in Pool C at the World Cup, while the United States have also developed strong set piece in recent years. At the last World Cup they won 100 percent of their own scrum feeds.

While the Pumas’ scrummaging prowess has dropped away, the side have developed an all-around game and as the Jaguares the players form arguably the best ball-handling side in Super Rugby.

Their hands, however, let them down against a stinging Wallabies defence and Ledesma said he felt they needed to take better control of the ball, especially in contact.

“It was a very sloppy game, where we had very quality ball,” he said. “I think we had 18 or 19 knock-ons, some in scoring positions. We were sloppy.”

The Pumas have now lost seven successive tests — and 12 of their last 14 — and face a buoyant South Africa, who lead the southern hemisphere championship, in Salta in two weeks.

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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