Pu­mas have dis­cov­ered their rugby DNA and pose a real threat

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS - Matt Wil­liams

As Ar­gen­tinian rugby con­tin­ues to take mas­sive strides for­wards, the Pu­mas are flour­ish­ing. This year the Ar­gen­tinian Su­per Rugby team, the Jaguares, won games on the road in New Zealand against the Blues at Eden Park (not easy) and the Chiefs. Then in Aus­tralia, they de­feated the Brumbies and the Rebels. In Ar­gentina they de­feated the Li­ons, the Storm­ers, the Bulls, the Sharks and the Waratahs.

In mak­ing the Su­per Rugby quar­ter-fi­nals, Los Jaguares cre­ated a break­through sea­son. Like Ire­land, the Pu­mas are reap­ing the suc­cess from the out­stand­ing per­for­mances of their pro­vin­cial teams.

Only hav­ing one pro­fes­sional team is ad­mit­tedly lim­it­ing, but dur­ing this sea­son’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship, the Pu­mas pushed New Zealand for 70 min­utes and de­feated both Aus­tralia and South Africa.

Los Pu­mas and Los Jaguares are play­ing a joy­ous, free-flow­ing, open style of rugby that re­flects the spirit and the char­ac­ter of their na­tion.

The Pu­mas have fi­nally dis­cov­ered their rugby DNA. They un­der­stand the pur­pose of how Ar­gen­tini­ans play rugby. That is pow­er­ful.

Over the years, life has been tough for the Pu­mas. Their play­ers were in com­pe­ti­tions all over the globe. There was no pro­fes­sional rugby at home and, at times, am­a­teur play­ers were se­lected on the na­tional team.

Through­out that time, I ob­served courage, ef­fort, pride and im­mense in­di­vid­ual skill but I could not see a dis­tinc­tive Ar­gen­tinian way of play­ing.

How­ever Mario Ledesma has changed all of that. He has cre­ated a unique and ex­cit­ing style of play.

Unique style

In Ledesma’s play­ing days with the Pu­mas he had the New Zealan­ders Alex ‘Grize’ Wyl­lie, Gra­ham Henry, and the fab­u­lous French coach Fa­bien Galthié as tech­ni­cal ad­vis­ers. He then coached with Michael Cheika at the Waratahs and the Wal­la­bies. He has taken all his lessons, from those il­lu­mi­nated rugby minds, and merged them into a unique style that is Los Pu­mas.

The Pu­mas are play­ing a run­ning and kick­ing game that is ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing any team, in­clud­ing New Zealand. Their at­tack­ing game is based on great foot­work, of­fload­ing and huge en­thu­si­asm in sup­port. The tries they score are spec­tac­u­lar.

The rugby is ex­cit­ing, un­pre­dictable and un­like the highly pat­terned Ir­ish, un­scripted.

The sin­gle aim of this is to win the 2019 World Cup. Novem­ber in­ter­na­tion­als are im­por­tant and ev­ery team wants to win but Ledesma knows, like Aus­tralia and New Zealand, with whom he has worked so closely, the big games will be in Ja­pan in a year’s time.

The Pu­mas’ method will be suc­cess­ful there. To win a World Cup, you have to be able to beat the Ki­wis. That is the real prize. You can­not rope-a-dope a win against New Zealand, you have to go out and play pos­i­tive at­tack­ing rugby and score four tries or more. Any­thing less will lead to fail­ure. The best way to score tries is from a coun­ter­at­tack. Us­ing pos­ses­sion that has been turned over, ei­ther from kicks or ball stolen at the break­down. Los Pu­mas’ coun­ter­at­tack is lethal. They will make you pay if your kick chase de­fence or your break­down work is sloppy.

They are made up of slightly framed ath­letic backs, gi­ant tight five for­wards, an ag­gres­sive back row and gifted, skil­ful halves. Rugby is a game for all sizes and the Pu­mas re­flect this.

I ad­mire their play, their think­ing and the ex­e­cu­tion of their plans. This will be a real test for Ire­land. Let me be clear. I be­lieve that Ire­land can win the next World Cup. They have an ex­cel­lent team, a great half-back com­bi­na­tion and ex­cep­tional set piece plays. The team is ex­pe­ri­enced in win­ning and they have a high-qual­ity coach­ing staff.

Tough gig

The chal­lenge for Joe Sch­midt and his team is to im­prove again – even af­ter the best year in Ir­ish rugby his­tory. That’s a tough gig, but to stand still is to go back­wards.

The great­est area of im­prove­ment re­quired for Ire­land to win the Wil­liam Webb El­lis tro­phy is to score more tries from the coun­ter­at­tack. The time to start this is now.

There are a few ex­cel­lent in­di­vid­u­als who will run bril­liantly, but very lit­tle in the way of an Ir­ish coun­ter­at­tack­ing sys­tem.

Last June in the third Test in Syd­ney, the Wal­la­bies’ anal­y­sis showed that Ire­land’s at­tack from li­ne­outs was the best in the world.

The sim­ple an­swer for the Wal­la­bies was to not give Ire­land as many li­ne­outs. The Aus­tralians kicked long and not for touch. Ire­land do not like to start their at­tack from a coun­ter­at­tack.

It was a plan that al­most worked. If not for the hor­rific Wal­laby dis­ci­pline and lots of un­forced er­rors, a very av­er­age Wal­laby team might have won.

The Aus­tralian tac­tics ex­posed Ire­land’s lim­ited abil­ity to play high-qual­ity coun­ter­at­tack. As ev­ery in­ter­na­tional coach on the planet watched, notes were drawn and plans were made.

Ar­gentina will run the ball, us­ing ev­ery last few cen­time­tres of space at the Aviva. In de­fence, Ire­land will be pressed and pushed.

In Mel­bourne Cup week, on a beau­ti­ful home track, Ire­land should win in a photo fin­ish, by a short half-bro­ken nose.

But don’t be sur­prised if the joy­ous out­sider Los Pu­mas, out of Los Jaguares, sired by Ar­gentina and ex­pertly rid­den by a very large Mario Ledesma, steals this one at the post.

The Pu­mas are play­ing a run­ning and kick­ing game that is ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing any team, in­clud­ing New Zealand

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.