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Argentina's Pablo Matera hoping Julian Salvi words will help against Australia

Published 24/10/2015

Pablo Matera, pictured, believes serving an apprenticeship under Julian Salvi will prepare him to face Australia
Pablo Matera, pictured, believes serving an apprenticeship under Julian Salvi will prepare him to face Australia

Pablo Matera hopes Julian Salvi's breakdown expertise can help him neutralise "the best around" in David Pocock and Michael Hooper when Argentina take on Australia.

Two years ago Matera had no idea how to win turnovers. Now the Argentina flanker must battle world-class duo Pocock and Hooper in Sunday's World Cup semi-final.

Matera was schooled in the back-row's dark arts by Salvi at Leicester in 2013, admitting the Australian flanker revolutionised his loose-forward play.

The 22-year-old has since forged a formidable world reputation, that he can boost once more with another bruising showing at Twickenham this weekend.

"Leicester was an amazing experience. It was my first time playing at a professional club. It was all new for me," Matera told Press Association Sport, of his 18 months at Welford Road.

"I really enjoyed the way they trained, the professionalism they have there, with all the skills and steps they train for.

"Now rugby in Argentina has grown a lot and we've developed those kinds of skills and training.

"But it was the first time I started training that way.

"I learned so much, not only from the coaches but also the players there.

"Julian Salvi was the man at the breakdown at Leicester.

"It was the first time I'd seen players handle that area so well.

"And I tried to learn, I tried to play the breakdown like him.

"I would train with him and just study what he did because he's so strong there."

Leicester beat a host of top French clubs to secure Matera's services in October 2013, with boss Richard Cockerill delighted to recruit the rough diamond from Argentinian club Alumni.

The raw but aggressive flanker was already able to run over the top of opponents just out of his teens, but was yet to study the finer points of back-row play.

Rugby director Cockerill set former Brumbies and Australia A breakdown specialist Salvi to work, and Matera was duly transformed.

Leicester were loath to lose Matera's services this summer, but the future world star could not resist signing for Argentina's new Super Rugby franchise.

This weekend, though, Matera must go head to head with the Wallabies' ball-stealing groundhogs Pocock and Hooper - the scourge of every opponent at this World Cup.

"Stealing the ball is all about timing and taking a quick decision. Not everybody is able to poach or steal - you need to wait for your chance," Matera said.

"And the best players are the players who know when that chance is available.

"I've been analysing Hooper and Pocock, and they are massive players. They steal so many balls, they give so much possession to their side.

"They are the best around at the breakdown.

"I think we need to work really hard at the breakdown to combat them. We've got to go hard in attack and be first to every ruck to keep the ball.

"Hooper and Pocock are the best in the world at the breakdown, so we need to win the collisions for sure.

"We have a decent back row. We can't poach as well as Hooper and Pocock, for sure, but we'll have a good go this Sunday."

While Pocock and Hooper boast world-leading attributes, Argentina totem Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe can still boss any game across the globe.

Matera backed the Toulon talisman to continue directing the Pumas' youthful but exuberant forwards around the field this weekend.

"Juan Martin, he's a real leader of the game. It's really helpful being with him," Matera said.

"He knows every step of the game, so it's really great to have him there guiding us as young guys.

"Every time we hear the national anthem before a match, it's very emotional. Every time you're there, what you've gone through to be there goes through your mind.

"When you channel that, it definitely helps you play better."

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