LA BAULE, France (AP) — Argentina doesn’t have a mental skills coach.
So to digest the opening 27-10 loss to England despite 65 minutes with a man advantage at the Rugby World Cup, and pick themselves back up after that stunner last weekend, the Pumas turned within.
They have been talking to each other more since that frustrating night in Marseille, and taking more responsibility.
“There are fears, anxieties, nerves. We are in a World Cup and that’s what happens,” lock Matias Alemanno said on Sunday. “It is being together, supporting each other, telling each other about our fears, the things that are happening, and also enjoying ourselves.
“We are in a World Cup, it doesn’t happen every day, it doesn’t just happen to everybody, and we have to take responsibility for that. The younger players know we are here if they want to talk.
“It’s about being a team on and off the field, caring and taking care of ourselves. And enjoy that we are all fulfilling a dream here.”
Emiliano Boffelli, at his second World Cup, was at pains to say they are a tight group.
“The most important thing is talking to each other, about how we feel, what we think,” the Pumas sharpshooter said. “We are very good as a team, as a group. We already have maximum trust in each other to speak out.
“If we have fears, which is normal because this is a World Cup, we have to talk about them and stay connected. Obviously, the younger players have the confidence to lean on the older ones and that confidence is felt.”
They have been hashing out what they need to fix before facing Samoa on Friday in Saint-Etienne in their second Pool D game.
Perhaps the biggest need was for the senior players to step up at difficult moments on the field.
Alemanno and Boffelli were among nine Pumas starters against England who had World Cup experience, but the team leadership’s failure to take a grip on proceedings, combined with spills and errors, sent them into a spiral they couldn’t recover from.
The Pumas are determined it won’t happen again, and trainings have been a little extra spicy.
“Competition increases in each training session,” Alemanno said. “It is about getting the best version of ourselves. Show the good things and correct the bad things to be better as a team.
“We all want to play and (training is) where the competition begins and that raises the standard.”
Coach Michael Cheika has liked what he’s seen so far.
“The reaction of the players has been very good,” Cheika said. “But I’m probably biased, I have a lot of confidence in my team. I know what they can do.”
AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby