Rugby: Pumas eager for game time after isolation release

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool C - Argentina v U.S.
FILE PHOTO: Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool C - Argentina v U.S.

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Argentina coach Mario Ledesma is glad to be out of isolation after spending two weeks in a bio-secure facility in Sydney and says he is looking forward to his side getting some much-needed game time ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Ledesma was among more than a dozen Pumas players and staff to test positive for COVID-19 last month before they travelled to Australia for the southern hemisphere tournament, which has been left with just three teams after South Africa's withdrawal.

Having being released from isolation, the Pumas will have a contested training session against a New South Wales Waratahs XV on Saturday, a warmup Ledesma feels is necessary for his players as many of them have not played since March.

They face New Zealand in their opener on Nov. 14.

"Friendly matches are so important for us," Ledesma said.

"Having the opportunity of playing at least three games before the debut against New Zealand, seems not too much but for us it is essential."

Ledesma said the team would go into the game against the All Blacks in Sydney with about 100 minutes of recent playing time under their belt, about a quarter of what South Africa felt was necessary for their players to be ready for the tournament.

While Ledesma was sorry to see the Springboks withdraw, he said the Nov. 7 game against the world champions would have been hard for his team as their 13 Europe-based players would only have been released from isolation three days before the match.

The Pumas have also been joined by former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who answered a request from Ledesma to act as an advisor despite previously saying he would never coach against Australia.

Cheika's arrival at the training facility created something of a stir in Australia but Ledesma was pleased to have him onboard.

"The fact that Michael can now be at the training venue and in contact with the players is great," Ledesma said.

"He is very enthusiastic about the team, he transmits lots of confidence and belief."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)