Australia
Pumas legend linked to Wallabies scrum post
Andy Withers
January 9, 2015
Argentina's Mario Ledesma checks on the Auckland weather, Argentina training session, Waitakere Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, October 5, 2011
Mario Ledesma has forgotten more than most people will ever know about the dark aarts of scrummaging © Getty Images
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Mario Ledesma may be the man to re-invigorate Australia's under-performing scrum, with the former Argentina hooker linked with the Wallabies set-up after Michael Cheika flagged the need for technical and tactical changes in the wake of their capitulation against England at Twickenham in November.

Australia's set-piece, and their forwards play in general, have become increasingly a weakness in the Test arena; they conceded a penalty try against Wales on the end-of-year tour in November before producing inconsistent performances in the following weeks that culminated in what Greg Growden described as their "embarrassment" against England.

"Australia's scrum was minced virtually every time they had to confront their opponents, with the tight-five exposed, again, as not being up to the task," Growden wrote at the time of the performance at Twickenham, where the Wallabies must return to play both Wales and England again in the 'Pool of Death' at the Rugby World Cup.

Given the need for almost immediate improvement if the Wallabies are to reach the knockout stages of the global showpiece, ESPN has heard whispers from Europe suggesting that Cheika is "looking at" Ledesma to hone the set-piece. French newspaper Midi-Olympique reported: "It is not yet known if [Ledesma] will replace the current forwards coach, Andrew Blades, or whether he will just concentrate on the scrum".

Midi-Olympique is reporting also that Ledesma will join Cheika on the Waratahs coaching staff as "forwards coach". The paper noted that Cheika and Ledesma had worked together at Stade Francais, where the Australian was head coach from 2010 to 2012 and the Argentine was forwards coach.

Cheika has strong connections with Argentina, having confirmed, after his appointment as Wallabies coach, ESPN's reports that he had been negotiating to coach the Pumas, and Ledesma offers a world of experience of the dark arts of scrummaging. A four-time World Cup player who won 84 Test caps in the front-row of the Pumas' bajada, one of the most aggressive and technically gifted set-pieces in rugby history, Ledesma was considered to be one of the leaders of the pack and among the best, if not the best, hooker in world rugby. He also boasts 10 seasons' experience in the gnarly world of Top 14 front-row play in France.

Ledesma was appointed forwards coach at Stade Français for the 2011-2012 Top 14 campaign, under Cheika, before joining Montpellier, where he held the same position until resigning in November 2014.

"One thing is certain," Midi-Olympique reported. "It will be with Australia that the emblematic Argentinian ... will take part in his fifth World Cup."

Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer told ESPN after the Twickenham demolition that England's reputation allowed them to scrummage "totally against the written letter of the law" but Cheika conceded he had to make change if his team was to succeed. Cheika wants the Wallabies to play attacking and running rugby on the back of an aggressive pack, as he has coached with the Super Rugby-winning Waratahs, but he acknowledged after Twickenham: "Some scrums, we weren't good enough, out and out, and some scrums were definitely open to interpretation".

"Because they [England] have a good reputation, we have to improve ours if we are going to get the rub of the green on those interpretation calls," Cheika said at the time. "We need to change some things, technique and strategy; perhaps a bit more wheeling or something because that seems to be accepted. Perhaps we are just a little bit too honest, maybe, in the scrum.

"We're the only ones who can change it because if we keep doing the same thing we'll get the same result ….the outcome has been consistently inconsistent in recent years. It's never been a strength, but we have to turn it into one because if we do it can hurt a lot of people."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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