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Marcos Ayerza retains hope of prolonging Argentina career

Marcos Ayerza is as reluctant to end his Argentina career after the World Cup as to start ribbing Leicester's England stars over their premature tournament exit.

Leicester's potent loosehead prop still hopes Argentina will create exemptions to the new rule that prohibits anyone not signed up to the new Super Rugby franchise from representing the Pumas from next month.

When Ayerza lines up at Twickenham for Argentina's World Cup semi-final against Australia on Sunday, his Leicester colleagues will be just about finished doing Premiership battle with Harlequins at Welford Road.

Ayerza knows Tom and Ben Youngs would have loved to have spent the weekend in World Cup semi-final action, but admitted the time for joking about England's failure has not yet arrived.

"I had committed to Leicester before Argentina made any confirmation of the new policies," said Ayerza, not giving up hope on extending his Pumas career past the World Cup.

"I don't know if there will be any exceptions.

"I play every game wearing this jersey as if it is my last. You never know with injuries and coaches' likes and dislikes or policies.

"I don't know what will happen, it will all be new for everyone."

Ayerza started the pre-season mixing World Cup warm-up games with the first leg of his testimonial year at Leicester.

The world's premier loosehead turned out for both teams as Leicester took on the Pumas at Welford Road in September as part of a series of events to mark his 10th campaign at the East Midlands club.

Argentina's new Super Rugby franchise will boost the Pumas' long-term resources no end but, as things stand, senior stars like Ayerza, Marcelo Bosch and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe will be ineligible for Test selection after the World Cup.

Ayerza is happy to shelve such concerns and focus on taking on a newly-robust Wallabies scrum coached by former Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma.

And the likeable front-rower is just as happy to delay addressing England's early World Cup exit with Leicester's home nation Test contingent.

England crashed out of the World Cup at the group stages, with head coach Stuart Lancaster's future now subject to review by a five-man panel.

While Leicester's England contingent have avoided the inevitable jokes, Ayerza hinted the moratorium will not last forever.

"It has been a sensible topic to avoid so far," said Ayerza, relaxing after training at the Pennyhill Park team base England were forced to vacate on exiting the competition.

"We have a WhatsApp group at Leicester, but no one has been making any jokes - yet.

"I haven't had chance to speak to them personally yet either."

Australia scrum coach Ledesma won 84 caps in 15 years with the Pumas and has helped transform the Wallabies' attitude and aptitude at the set-piece under boss Michael Cheika.

Argentina still hope to have captain and hooker Agustin Creevy fit for Sunday's semi-final after a leg problem, with Ayerza wary of old sparring partner Ledesma's influence on this weekend's opponents.

"His contribution to Australian rugby has been to bring an Argentinian passion and psychology to their scrum," said Ayerza.

"He's brought the mentality to go into the game to have a battle that's separate from the whole game.

"I've played with him and against him, several times. He's always passionate about the scrum - he would shout a lot on the pitch!

"They've had a big change of mindset with Mario's introduction. Instead of it being a platform to put the ball in play it has become a platform of psychological domination from which to attack.

"You can see how well that has gone in this World Cup. They dominated against England and have attacked most teams.

"I like it because it will be a proper contest - two teams wanting to test themselves in that formation.

"That's the best you can aim for as a front-row, not teams just wanting to neutralise the scrum or get away with 50-50 calls. Come to play the scrum, don't get away with it."


From Belfast Telegraph