Rugby Australia has today locked in the Wallabies fixtures for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series, with the all games so far scheduled to take place in Australia and New Zealand.
Argentina have Nathan Cleary in their corner with the NRL star giving the Pumas some kicking pointers before their Tri-Nations clash with the All Blacks.
Soaking up the NRL off-season after Penrith’s grand final defeat and then the NSW State of Origin series loss, Cleary was at the Pumas’ training at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday.
Through a connection with his kicking coach Daryl Halligan, Cleary turned out to give some of the young Pumas some pointers – to the delight of Argentina coach Mario Ledesma, who became a rugby league fan while an assistant coach at the Wallabies and the NSW Waratahs.
Cleary, who received some mid-season advice himself from AFL premiership captain Trent Cotchin, is noted as one of the sharpest boots in the NRL.
“His kicking coach is in New Zealand and he couldn’t come so he offered Nathan to come and give some pointers to the boys,” Ledesma said.
“I thought it was really nice of him to come and give us a hand.
“Being a big rugby league fan I was happy to have him.”
The Pumas woke up to news of the death of Argentine football great Diego Maradona, who had attended many of their Tests including those at the 2015 World Cup.
Ledesma said the coaching staff felt his passing more than the players, who had only seen his legendary acts online.
Playing 84 Tests, Ledesma said he had met Maradona several times and recalled his impact at a Pumas-All Blacks match.
“We were playing against the All Blacks, the game was started and Diego came out and waved and everything stopped,” Ledesma said.
“We Argentinians all stopped and looked up, and the All Blacks stopped.
“The world stopped when he was there, he had a kind of magic.”
Ledesma said the Pumas would try to honour him on the field at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“He’s a big figure in our country and he epitomised a lot of the way the Argentinians are,” he said.
“We’ll try to remember him the best way possible, which was on the field representing the colours, and use that as an example of how to play for this jersey.”