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Argentina v Australia: Mario Ledesma has all the angles covered, reveals Hooper

By Duncan Bech

Published 24/10/2015

Milestone: Michael Hooper will earn his 50th Test cap
Milestone: Michael Hooper will earn his 50th Test cap

Mario Ledesma's success in transforming Australia's scrum has been delivered using an unconventional approach that left flanker Michael Hooper bemused at first.

The Wallabies forwards coach will pit his wits against the nation he served with distinction over 84 caps in tomorrow's World Cup semi-final against Argentina at Twickenham.

A gnarled former Pumas front row, Ledesma has elevated Australia's set-piece from Achilles' heel to asset in under a year - as England discovered to the cost of their World Cup aspirations three weeks ago.

One of his training methods has been to lie down in the tunnel of a scrum and gaze upwards knowing a different perspective from an unusual angle may offer an insight to any technical shortcomings from his forwards.

"I had no idea what he was doing, I just push on the side. He was crawling through the middle one day and I was just thinking, 'what is this guy doing?'" Hooper said.

"That was one of the first days of him working with us. I thought the scrum was going to collapse, but the boys managed to keep it up. He's an integral part of this team and has been since day dot.

"Being so hands on shows how committed he is, but so do the words that he brings to the team throughout the week, especially to the forward pack.

"He's an inspirational guy and motivated in seeing us do well and seeing us improve each week.

"Mario's been a great part of this team and he's got that other side where he can joke around."

Hooper, Australia's vice-captain who will be making his 50th Test appearance tomorrow, insists Ledesma's influence extends beyond his technical expertise.

"All Argentinians are pretty emotional and he wants to see us do well. He's completely adopted our team and wants to see us improve," Hooper said.

"When he gives so much, you get emotionally attached. He's brought a lot of passion that sometimes Australians don't have.

"Mario is tense every week, he is a front-rower and he stresses about the scrum. He is not shy at all. He jokes around a lot. Then he can turn serious when it comes to rugby time. He is a huge part of this team, especially forwards wise."

Australia's chances of toppling Argentina have improved after David Pocock and Israel Folau were passed fit for tomorrow's Twickenham showdown.

The pair were injured during the final group outing against Wales and were forced to sit out the 35-34 victory over Scotland, but have recovered from their respective calf and ankle problems.

Pocock has been among the players of the tournament due to his work at the breakdown - the No.8 was a key component of the victory against hosts England - and Folau is one of the sport's most dangerous runners from full-back.

Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Giteau, D Mitchell; B Foley, W Genia; J Slipper, S Moore (capt), S Kepu, K Douglas, R Simmons, S Fardy, M Hooper, D Pocock.

Replacements: T Polota-Nau, T Smith, G Holmes, D Mumm, B McCalman, N Phipps, M Toomua, K Beale.

Belfast Telegraph

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