Pumas coach Mario Ledesma unloads over 'disrespectful' photo opportunity

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has launched a scathing attack on his Rugby Championship rivals, slamming a photo opportunity in Townsville that was without Pumas representation.

Ledesma unloaded on his fellow tournament combatants after his side had been beaten 27-8 by the Wallabies at Queensland Coountry Bank Stadium on Saturday night, the Pumas coach taking a large portion of his media conference to hit out at the "disrespect" his team had been shown.

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper had on Friday afternoon joined the All Blacks' Ardie Savea and Springboks captain Siya Kolisi for a photo opportunity with the Rugby Championship trophy at the beach in Townsville.

But there was no sign of a sky blue and white striped jersey, nor Pumas skipper Julian Montoya.

"I just want to make a point about what happened this week with the captain's photo," Ledesma said. "The boys and the staff, we felt really disrespected.

"Last week it [the photo] was supposed to happen but it didn't happen because one team pulled out once, and the other team pulled out the other time. And then when it was our time we couldn't make it, we were told they weren't supposed to take the picture, and then there was the picture and the video.

"We're not asking for much; last year when South Africa pulled out we came over here, went through strict lockdown, we were away from home three or four months.

"We're the only team who hasn't played at home for more than two years; South Africa played at home, obviously you guys [Australia] are playing at home and New Zealand played at home. And we're always travelling, we never complained and we feel sometimes that we're getting treated with disrespect and we just continue and cop it on the chin.

"I don't know if it was Rugby Australia, SANZAAR or whatever, but it's just disrespectful and it hurts a lot because we have families and we have kids that we haven't seen for ages now, and in a couple of weeks' time we'll be out of houses again.

"And the only thing we're asking is to get treated fairly and with respect and obviously in this case it wasn't that way. And I don't think it was too hard to move that and respect us as a team, as a nation; rugby has values, I'm sure of it, and they weren't respected here."

RugbyPass documented the photo opportunity, showing a video of Savea arriving to greet Kolisi and Hooper and then all three men posing next to trophy.

The lack of Argentine participation stood out badly, and was certainly not an ideal look for the tournament.

ESPN understands attempts were made to take the photo before the first double-header on the Gold Coast but given South Africa and Argentina only cleared quarantine two days before kick-off the timings couldn't align.

Ledesma said the Pumas had been notified at the start of the week that a photo was likely to take place on Friday but his team's travel plans weren't in sync.

It is understood that the Pumas were meant to arrive into Townsville on Thursday night but then changed their travel plans so that they would arrive 24 hours later.

But the Pumas coach, and former Wallabies' assistant, believes the photo opportunity should have never have gone ahead without someone from the Argentina squad in attendance.

"At the end of the day, if we're not here, you just shouldn't do it, just by respect," Ledesma.

"Let's say there [it's] lost in translation or whatever you're making excuses, but let's say it's that way, you should say 'we're not doing that, we're not doing that', just by respect to the Argentina guys that have been away from home for that long not seeing their families and stuff like that.

"I don't think it's a lot to ask; do you think it's a lot to ask?"

ESPN, however, has obtained communications that shows every effort was made to fly an injured Pumas player, or someone not in the match day 23, up early to Townsville so the picture would have been complete with representation of all four nations.

It also appears that once it was decided the photo opportunity proceed even without the Pumas, that only two captains were to pose in the same picture rather than all of Hooper, Kolisi and Savea together.

Despite Ledesma's anger, Rugby Australia and SANZAAR officials will have been thrilled with the near-full Queensland Country Bank Stadium for the double-header in Townsville.

It is understood that the photo opportunity was coordinated in part to help sell some of the remaining tickets for Saturday night's back-to-back Tests.