Line-breaking Leguizamón looking to end tour on high note
There are two hilarious Juan Manuel Leguizamón moments on YouTube. One shows him smashing Sebastien Chabal, half an hour late, during the 2007 World Cup. The other is an embarrassing handling malfunction as he leaps over the try-line in an evenly poised Premiership meeting between London Irish and Wasps.
Neither clip reflects what this hound of a backrow merchant is really about.
The try he helped engineer against Wales two weeks ago is a better example of what the 29-year-old from Santiago del Estero can really do. Born to run, he clearly relishes physical contact, but a line break only pays out if followed by an offload.
Leguizamón ground out a few yards before finding his captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, who in turn released winger Juan Imhoff for the decisive score at the Millennium.
After three seasons at Irish and another three at Stade Francais under Michael Cheika, he is currently contracted to Lyon.
On Tuesday he was a little defensive when faced with a circle of dictaphones in the Pumas’ team hotel.
Maybe he was tired after a long day training in UCD, on top of the longest year in Argentinian rugby, but he was at least enthusiastic about the shift away from the style of play traditionally associated Los Pumas.
“I think we are trying to change our system. The attack is now as important as the defence, it has always been like that. But now we are more focused on the attack. We are trying to play more. We are happy with the system and are trying to put it on the pitch.”
The impression given is that Graham Henry’s stint with the squad helped this process.
It was only this summer when Argentina finally, four years after reaching the World Cup semi-final, were allowed join the expanded Tri Nations tournament. It made us wonder what could have been achieved if this process had been accelerated.
“It helped a lot, playing against the three best teams in the world all the time. It’s natural, that will make you improve.
“I don’t know about your question. Probably, yeah. But we will never know that. The truth is we have already played the first Rugby Championship and we feel that it helped us a lot.
“We are getting slowly stronger.”
For it to be sustained must Argentina get a franchise into the Super Rugby competition?
“That’s one of the ideas but I’ve no idea if that’s going to happen.”
Attempts to steer him towards the possibility of Saturday’s match being a chance for Argentina to establish their credentials as a coming force were also swatted away. He was playing the respect card.
“We don’t think that Ireland are not in good form. We know Ireland is a great team. One of the best in the world. They have great attack, great forward pack and we know it is going to be as tough as always.”
One last roll of the dice. The bad blood between these rugby nations, which Donncha O’Callaghan cheerily referenced last weekend, was revisited.
Not to stir the pot, mind, but to find out whether an aggressive specimen like Leguizamón enjoys what promises to be a war of attrition.
We know he does, we just wanted him to say he does.
Ireland versus Argentina, hasn’t it almost attained derby status?
“People say that but I don’t think so. The last few years we have played a lot of times but I don’t feel it.”
It’s worth noting that Leguizamón only came on the scene in 2005 and didn’t feature at the Parc des Princes in 2007. For him it is not about Ireland it is about driving his country on to a higher plain.
“Every time that you lose, like we did last week, you are hurt. We know that we didn’t play well. We know that we failed against France. We didn’t do the things we prepared during the week. We would like to finish the tour well.”