Pumas seeking new coach after deflated Ledesma resigns

February 10, 2022 GMT

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — When Mario Ledesma stunned the Argentine Rugby Union by resigning as the national coach this week, he was also being as courteous as possible.

He wanted to give the UAR suitable time to find a replacement.

The Pumas’ next assignment is July, a three-test home series against Scotland, followed soon after by the Rugby Championship.

UAR president Marcelo Rodriguez, as surprised as anyone by Ledesma’s resignation 19 months before the Rugby World Cup, said they had no replacements lined up.

The most obvious candidate is Gonzalo Quesada, who took advantage of what Ledesma developed at the Jaguares in 2018 and led them to their first Super Rugby final in 2019. The Jaguares were disbanded in 2020 because of travel restrictions in the pandemic, and Quesada is coaching Stade Francais in the French Top 14.

The UAR board picks the coach, and the board is subject to elections at the end of March, but Rodriguez said it won’t be a complication, adding finding a new coach transcends elections.

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Ledesma replaced Daniel Hourcade, who also resigned in the year before a Rugby World Cup, and in 2018 led the Pumas to wins over South Africa and Australia.

They failed to get out of the group stage at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan but in 2020 they shocked world rugby by beating New Zealand for the first time, 25-15 in Sydney.

But it was one of only eight wins, beside three draws, in 33 tests under Ledesma.

Without the Jaguares in the pandemic to help prepare the national side, the Pumas generally struggled. They haven’t played a home test since August 2019, and playing on the road and dealing with quarantines, virus tests and bubbles, particularly in the last two years, took a toll on Ledesma and his family that he was no longer willing to endure.

The decline in results last year was also disheartening.

“We always saw progress and improvement, which was not seen last year,” Ledesma said. “That made me reflect.”

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