Argentina coach sorry for ‘small nation’ ref jibe

Argentina coach sorry for ‘small nation’ ref jibe

Osaka, Japan: Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma apologised on Monday for his heat-of-the-moment criticism of the referee after his side lost to France 23-21 in agonising last-minute fashion at the weekend.

Ledesma launched a broadside at Australia match official Angus Gardner in his post-match interview, complaining his side was being refereed like a “small nation” — comments that drew fire even in Argentinian media.

A contrite Ledesma appeared before reporters on Monday to say: “If I am here, it is to apologise to the people I may have offended — and to the values of rugby.”“It wasn’t my intention. I am convinced that I am still a good ambassador for those values and those of my family and the fact anyone could have doubted that… saddens me a bit,” added Ledesma.

Ledesma was incensed after Gardner refused to award his side a last-gasp ruck penalty in the nailbiting Pool C loss that left Los Pumas contemplating an early exit from the 2019 World Cup but he acknowledged he had misspoken. “Speaking about ‘small nations’ or words to that effect was uncalled-for. And when you make a mistake, you have to apologise. That seems the most logical thing to me,” he added. He said he had also sent an official letter to World Rugby about the incident, which earned him a sharp rebuke back home.

La Nacion said that the coach had “forgotten the fundamentals of rugby” and had sent a “dangerous and harmful message”. “In any club in Argentina, boys learn that ‘the referee is always right’,” said the paper.

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