Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma has given reassurance that his team will play in this year’s Rugby Championship despite several ongoing Covid-19 cases in their squad.
A truncated Rugby Championship will be hosted by Australia over a six-week period from 7 November to 12 December.
While the Wallabies and All Blacks are all but certain to take part – after they face each other in a Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand – the situation is less clear when it comes to the Springboks and Argentina.
South Africa will only resume domestic action this weekend, with concern over their readiness for Test rugby – especially when compared to Australia and New Zealand, who have both already completed their domestic competitions.
Argentina, meanwhile, are facing a similar match-readiness challenge but compounded by the fact that a number of squad members and management, including Ledesma, have tested positive for coronavirus.
Apart from Ledesma, Puma regulars Tomas Cubelli, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando and Felipe Ezcurra as well as assistant coaches Nicolas Fernandez Miranda and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe were among 13 players and coaching staff forced to isolate earlier this month.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Ledesma revealed the situation has improved in recent weeks and that most of the players and staff have recovered.
‘I’m all good, I never had symptoms or anything,’ Ledesma said. ‘Ninety-nine per cent of our staff and players were fine. Only one guy got symptoms a month ago but the other guys were asymptomatic.
‘It’s really weird because we had a lot of positive cases, but all asymptomatic. Some guys were living together, sharing maté [a popular drink in Argentina] and bathrooms but one got it and the others didn’t. It happened in three or four different cases.’
As an added bonus, Argentina’s most recent Covid-19 tests returned 26 negative cases, leading to confidence that they will be free of the virus when they fly to Australia.
‘We won’t wait for everybody because we’ll be waiting forever,’ Ledesma explained. ‘We can only go once to Australia, we cannot go on different flights.
‘We’re testing every 72 hours. We’ll be tested 72 hours before leaving, and once we get into Australia we’ll be tested again. The margin of getting a positive is really minor. I’ll be confident enough to say that we won’t get any positive cases. We wouldn’t take that risk.
‘We’ll definitely be rusty. When you look at Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa, the level from the beginning of the comps and the end of the comps changed quite a bit.
‘We’ll be going through that transition throughout the Rugby Championship. We can assure that we’ll be fit and mentally ready. The rugby will come.’
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