Argentina relish scrum challenge

Argentina may have reached the World Cup semifinals by playing in a manner that recalls the France of old – bruising up front and swashbuckling behind – but they are relishing confronting Australia up front at Twickenham on Sunday, with the Wallabies’ scrum being masterminded by the Pumas’ hooker in the four previous World Cups, Mario Ledesma.

Argentina have scored 26 tries in their five matches so far this tournament, including four against Ireland in the quarter-final, a far remove from the days when passing was low down on the list of required attributes for their outside halves.

“We have more equilibrium now,” said Leicester prop Marcos Ayerza. “We are still Argentina in terms of the scrum, confrontation and committed, aggressive defence, but we are also expansive in a southern hemisphere style. We trust ourselves to be competitive against the best and we are not scared to play with width no matter who we are facing.

“Mario has brought a change of mindset to Australia’s scrum. Instead of being a platform to get the ball in play for them, they now look for psychological domination, which they got over England. They have attacked most teams and I like that because it means the scrum will be a proper contest, two teams wanting to test themselves there. As a front row, that is the opponent you want to face, someone who will contest the scrum rather than looking to neutralise you and get away with things.”

It will be Argentina’s second appearance in a semifinal after their breakthrough tournament in 2007. “We are not getting carried away,” said Ayerza. “We know we are still improving as a side and that we still have some way to go. But we know what we are capable of when we are on our best form and when our mindset is right. This is a World Cup semi-final and if anyone is not ready or hungry to play, they are in the wrong sport. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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