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Argentina reveal fun-loving side ahead of World Cup semi

The national anthem may make Argentina cry before their World Cup semi-final with Australia, but the Pumas have smiled all tournament to the strains of Michael Buble.

From dancing with Diego Maradona in the Leicester City Stadium all the way through to the last four, Daniel Hourcade's men have never lost their humble edge.

Their focused head coach started the week trying to play tricks on the Argentina Rugby Union's president before departing Cardiff for London.

The engaging, passionate boss knows when to crack the whip, but is also savvy enough to allow his players to let their hair down.

"Horacio Agulla is the man when it comes to singing for us," said scrum-half Martin Landajo. "He sings in English, mostly Michael Buble.

"We have a team song too, it doesn't have a title but the supporters sing it as well, 'Vamos Pumas Vamos'.

"We don't have Omar Hasan to sing but Agulla is a very good singer, he sings everything.

"When we are free we play cards, dice, pool, ping-pong. We make the younger kids sing and dance, prepare a sketch or something, when they come to the squad.

"We enjoy it - it's the best job in the world.

"It is dangerous if you relax too much of course, but also if you are over-committed. If you think about rugby all the time, in my opinion it is not good.

"Sunday is a big match of course but we are enjoying it.

"Every Monday our captain talks to us and he emphasises that we have to enjoy what we do.

"This week is so special, we're enjoying a lot and not having that much pressure. Maybe on Sunday we'll have pressure but that's normal."

Pumas squad joker Landajo trained as a chef in his amateur days but will return to Buenos Aires as a fully-fledged professional for Argentina's new Super Rugby franchise after the World Cup.

The spiky 27-year-old was in every ear and ruffled every head of hair whenever Ireland made a mistake in last weekend's 43-20 demolition in the quarter-finals.

Hourcade and his coaching horde have never told him to curb his enthusiasm or his cheekiness, and he believes that freedom of expression drives the Pumas' approach.

"The best of what we have is the team and the group," said Landajo.

"We always try to enjoy ourselves on the pitch, then reflect afterwards. Everyone is as they are in real life, no one changes.

"For the younger kids it is important as they don't feel pressure and I believe they play better if they don't have that pressure.

"In this group everyone can have fun, but also work hard. That makes the younger players do better.

"We come from amateur rugby, we are with our friends all the time. We didn't chase money or live with rugby, maybe that's why we feel our shirt differently."

Argentina's amateur background still throws up a host of world superstars.

Landajo chuckles when it is put to him that Juan Martin Hernandez and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe would fetch more than £100million combined in transfer fees if football stars.

"Yes that's true," said Landajo.

"I'm in the wrong job, I should have tried soccer! But we love this game and I hope that shows."


From Belfast Telegraph