Undercooked but not overawed, Argentina woke up today after a long flight to New Zealand talking up their chances of at least emulating their third-place finish at the Rugby World Cup four years ago.
The Pumas, who are in Scotland’s pool, arrived in Dunedin late last night and they are confident they could surprise the world again despite their problematic preparations. “To be champions. At least I have the dream,” veteran hooker Mario Ledesma said confidently when asked of the team’s goal for the event which begins next Friday. “The goal was not imposed on us, but the coaches told us to reach the quarter-finals at least.”
The Argentines surprised many with their run four years ago after beating hosts France in the opening match and then in the play-off for third. Few have tipped them to match those exploits after the loss of fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez through injury, the development of the rules which have favoured more attacking sides and their lack of matches.
“Since the last World Cup all the other squads have played 40 Tests and we have played 18,” Ledesma said. “The last 14 months is the only time we have had to train together.”
Argentina attempted to shake off the rust in their World Cup warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff last month but fell to a 28-13 defeat. “Obviously we would like more games, but you can sit down and moan or take it by the horns, and we’re just trying to makethe most of it,” captain Felipe Contepomi said.