Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma can’t understand the fuss about having just two hookers in Australia’s 31-man squad, saying Argentina did the same in the four Rugby World Cups he played in.
The 42-year-old former Argentina hooker is comfortable with coach Michael Cheika decision to take just skipper Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau as specialist hookers for next month’s rugby showpiece in Britain.
“We (Pumas) played 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 with two hookers and a prop who can play hooker and that’s the case over here,” Ledesma said at the SCG on Wednesday.
He stopped short of declaring who the third choice Wallabies hooker would be if needed, but it’s believed it could be prop Scott Sio.
“That’s a surprise and that’s all hypothetical, so just stay with the facts and the facts today are that we have two of the best hookers and I’m really comfortable with it.”
Adding to concern over the two hookers selection is the fact Polota-Nau has a history of concussions, which some fear make him an added injury risk.
Polota-Nau dismissed any personal concerns.
“If anything, I feel fantastic,” he said. “The medical staff have been awesome in that regard.”
Ledesma said if anything, hooking was a strong point for the Wallabies.
“I think that’s covered. We are lucky enough to have two of the best hookers in the world in the squad,” he said.
Ledesma has been widely praised for his work with the NSW Waratahs scrum this season and for improvement in the Wallabies’ scrummaging since.
He claimed the internationally much-maligned Wallabies scrum was nowhere near as bad as was made out, but admitted there were scars from last year’s loss to England at Twickenham in November where the home side’s pack dominated.
“Everybody made a big issue about that and the Kiwis and the English will be talking a lot about that,” he said.
“We are trying to change perceptions. I think it was much more of a perception. We have to put the scrum in the place it deserves and that is being a really important part of rugby, if not, we will be playing rugby league.”
Polota-Nau praised Ledesma’s work.
“You can tell by his aura and his presence … there’s not words that need to be spoken. You can really feel the intent when it comes to scrum time,” Polota-Nau said.
“We’re still trying to get there, we’ve made improvements, but we’re still trying to get there.
“With Mario, there’s a really consistent message of being a really strong unit together.”
Australia depart Sydney on Saturday before facing the United States in Chicago on September 5 and open their World Cup campaign against Fiji in Cardiff 18 days later.