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Martin Landajo: Graham Henry inspired Argentina

World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry could yet mastermind another global success story after pioneering Argentina's ebullient attacking threat.

Scrum-half Martin Landajo hailed former New Zealand boss Henry for masterminding an attacking revolution during a 2012 consultancy stint with the Pumas.

Henry has championed personality at this World Cup, claiming England have lost their identity en route to crashing out at the group stage of their home tournament.

Argentina have lit up the World Cup with a free-spirited flow evoking memories of France's flair-filled counter-attackers of the 1970s and 80s, and Landajo believes Henry must take great credit.

"This rugby that we are trying to play, that's since we entered the Rugby Championship," said Landajo, preparing for Sunday's quarter-final with Ireland at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

"Graham Henry came to help us and we've tried to play that rugby since then.

"Now with Daniel Hourcade we've developed stronger rugby.

"When Graham arrived I remember he said that we needed to create more tries.

"We had a great defence, one of the best in the world, but we didn't attack much, and he said it was impossible to win games like that.

"He told us we could defend for 80 minutes if we wanted, but that we wouldn't win.

"So he tried to change our minds, he did it, it wasn't easy but now with Daniel he wants to follow the same line, he likes to play and to attack.

"So we've tried to change to an attacking game.

"We won't let our defence slip but we've improved a lot."

Former Wales boss Henry, who led New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2011, has expressed disappointment at top teams copying the All Blacks' approach.

England were certainly guilty of that charge, boss Stuart Lancaster often at paints to deconstruct the Kiwi way.

Henry's background influence on Argentina was to tell the Pumas to seize their natural personalities as a base for their blueprint.

Landajo admitted Argentina have since adopted a more Latin-style edge to their rugby.

"Football in Argentina is like that, we have the best players in Messi and Maradona," said Landajo.

"But four years ago Argentina didn't play rugby like that.

"We've tried to change it.

"Historically in Argentinian football they would attack a lot, and we didn't do that in the past.

"But now we've tried to change that and do that a bit more.

"Us Argentinians, we're Latins, we like to be happy all the time, it's in our roots and hopefully that shows in our rugby now."

Landajo underscored Argentina's playful approach by turning the interview on its head in a bid to find out whether Ireland linchpin Johnny Sexton will be fit for Sunday's last-eight clash.

Sexton is fighting to beat groin trouble in time to face the Pumas, after trudging out of Sunday's 24-9 victory over France after 25 minutes.

When quizzed on how the Leinster fly-half's presence would affect Sunday's match, Landajo picked up a dictaphone and started asking questions of his own.

"Will he play? Is he fit? What do you think?" joked Landajo.

"I don't know if it would change how they play, I think Madigan plays similar rugby, but we know that Sexton is one of the best players in the world.

"He kicks well, he plays well, and he's very important for Ireland.

"He'd make a difference but then Madigan would still do a great job.

"They are one of the best teams in the world, they have one of the best attacking games.

"I like the way they attack, it's much more similar to a southern hemisphere way, moving the ball.

"France and England are maybe slower in that regard.

"They are the best team in Europe, as shown by their two Six Nations wins."


From Belfast Telegraph