Quesada kicks conflict of interest into touch

The 1999 World Cup top points scorer and now France kicking coach Gonzalo Quesada has said he will set aside sentimental and patriotic feelings when his new employers take on his place of birth Argentina in Marseille on Saturday.

The 34-year-old – winner of 36 caps who sadly for him missed the Pumas high point when they finished third in the 2003 World Cup – said that Argentina remained the country of his heart.

“A lot of people speak to me about this week,” smiled Quesada.

“Me, I have at my heart to do the best job possible and to see what I put in place everything I prepared. But I am still Argentinian, it is the team in my heart and I am not lying to myself.”

Quesada, who has a lot of experience of French club rugby with Narbonne, Beziers, Paris, Pau and Toulon, said that it was a logical step for France to take on a kicking coach.

“The three big Southern Hemisphere nations (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) already have their kicking coach,” said Quesada, who was on trial in June for France’s tour of Australia.

“And the French backroom staff believed that it was an area where they should develop.”

Since then he has worked with the four players – apart from the mercurial Frederic Michalak who was in South Africa helping the Natal Sharks win the Currie Cup for the first time in 13 years – Francois Trinh-Duc, Lionel Beauxis (both are out of the Pumas clash because of injury and have been replaced by David Skrela and Damien Traille), Morgan Parra and Maxime Medard.

“It is very difficult to find two players with a similar kicking game,” explained Quesada.

“There is a very clear bio-mechanical basis: the kick is a complete movement of the body, it is not just about the legs. Each kicker is used to his own habits, to give it his usual kick.” Quesada said that the new laws introduced other problems for the kickers.

“The fact that we can’t kick directly into touch after being passed the ball has rapidly pushed us into kind of tennis matches,” said Quesada.

“That means the kicks have to be really precise, if not, we get rid of the ball and we can quickly give the ball to our opponent.”

Quesada is a great admirer of the French tradition of more running the ball, than a strategic kicking game, but he realises that the coaching team headed by 1999 World Cup finalist and flanker Marc Lievremont want an added ingredient to the team’s play.

“The coaching team wanted to expand the breadth of the game, with a mix of kicking and passing phases.

“They understood that in order to have a good overall strategy, we should have a strong kicking game so that the opposing sides cannot be satisfied to defend solely on the first wave of attack.”

Quesada said that despite The Pumas extraordinary recent record over France – six wins from last seven matches – the match should be too close to call.

“The Argentinians are undergoing the same difficulties as France,” he said.

“There has been a change of coach, of players, and a bad recent run with two losses in Argentina against Scotland and Italy and a dreadful defeat against South Africa (63-9).

“For the two teams, it will be a crucial match, which can bring both assurance and serenity to the backroom staff.”

Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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