'We had a beer yesterday' – Pumas coach Ledesma picks Schmidt's brain

JOE SCHMIDT MET Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma for a beer yesterday evening.

It’s not unusual for the Ireland boss to connect with his counterparts before games but this meeting was likely more relaxed than most.

Schmidt and Ledesma go a good way back, the Argentinian having been a hooker and key player for Clermont when the Kiwi was an assistant coach to Vern Cotter. The pair of them helped Clermont to their first-ever Top 14 title in 2010.

Mario Ledesma Arocena
Ledesma at Argentina’s training in UCD yesterday.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

They haven’t been in regular contact since 2011, when Ledesma moved into coaching with Stade Français and their paths very much diverged, but it was good to catch up in Dublin.

“We had a beer yesterday,” said Ledesma today after Argentina’s captain’s run. 

“I’ve been all over the place and he’s been winning everywhere.

“It was really good to see him and he’s the same, that’s the good thing about him. He’s done a great job. It was really good to meet him and pick his brain a little bit. 

“Obviously, not the way that they will play tomorrow but the way they prepare, what type of feedback he gives to players and how he plans the week or the season.

“It’s really interesting as a young head coach. You try to get whatever you can get from successful coaches like Joe.”

Speaking yesterday in Carton House, Schmidt mentioned how Ledesma had been an important influence at Clermont, even as a player, particularly around the scrum.

“I was a bit of a nuisance as a player,” said Ledesma this afternoon. “If I had many of me in my team I would be struggling!

“But it was a little bit like that, and even when Vern was there he tried to give us that responsibility. He would plan the whole thing but let us do things too, then maybe correct bits.

Mario Ledesma Arocena
The Pumas head coach during their captain’s run in the Aviva today.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It was really good to have Joe there, obviously his job was really different – he was attack coach over there.

“When I heard he was really ruthless as a head coach I was surprised because he wasn’t as an attack coach.”

Schmidt has certainly changed since moving to Leinster in 2013 and becoming a head coach, guiding the province to remarkable success before moving into the Ireland job and doing the same.

Ledesma, eight years younger than Schmidt, is now on a similar journey, having served as an assistant with Stade Français, Montpellier, the Waratahs and Australia before taking on his first head coaching role with the Jaguares this year.

His success in that job – leading them to a Super Rugby play-off – resulted in promotion into the Argentina head coach position and Ledesma understands the need to be more ruthless.

“In front of the players, you have to be. When you’re assistant, you’re not the real boss. You’re not a peer but you’re closer to them, so you can’t be as hard as a head coach will be.

“I’ve had the experience of being an assistant and trying to be really tough, but it wasn’t very good.”

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