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Rugby World Cup: Argentina hope for Diego Maradona to return for semi-final

By Nick Purewal

Diego Maradona has been tipped to continue inspiring Argentina's quest for World Cup glory, whether he jets in for the semi-final with Australia or not.

Football great Maradona danced a jig of delight in the Pumas' changing room after the 45-16 pool-stage victory over Tonga.

The 1986 football World Cup-winner vowed to head back to England should his countrymen reach the last-four.

The Pumas' 43-20 quarter-final victory over Ireland puts the ball back in Maradona's court for the Wallabies battle, but prop Marcos Ayerza believes Argentina's much-loved superstar has already left an indelible imprint.

"I don't have a clue if he will come back," said Ayerza. "It would be very good if he comes.

"When he came to the changing room, to have him around, a legend of any sport, it was fantastic.

"For him to highlight what we're doing within this team, it was huge.

"But our main objective of course is to keep winning."

Leicester's bullish loosehead prop was in vintage form against Ireland, helping Argentina dominate the Irish scrum in the early stages.

The 32-year-old joined the Pumas' jubilant celebrations at the final whistle, even though he revealed his Irish heritage in midweek.

Ayerza's great, great grandfather hailed from Dublin, but despite those links and his love for horse racing, the Buenos Aires native admitted former football star Maradona will continue to underscore the Pumas' World Cup run.

"What he said to us before was really very special," said Ayerza. "He was talking about how important it is for us to make so many people happy through sport.

"It's amazing how a whole country can get behind a team that's doing well, and how good hosts can have great spirit from the home nation.

"He said 'if you're making a whole nation happy, that's the most important thing you can do in sport'.

"And it was a very good message for everyone, it's really put into perspective what we're doing," he added.

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