Mario Ledesma. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Rugby Championship bosses on Monday apologised to Argentina after a captains photo shoot went ahead without Pumas skipper Julian Montoya, sparking a furious reaction from coach Mario Ledesma.
The event in Townsville on Friday was to promote a double header of rugby action a day later with Australian captain Michael Hooper, New Zealand’s Ardie Savea and South Africa’s Siya Kolisi posing together with the tournament silverware.
But Montoya was absent, as the team had not yet arrived in the northern Queensland town.
A fuming Ledesma slammed the decision to go ahead regardless as “disrespectful” to his team and country, saying “it hurts a lot”.
“The only thing we’re asking is to get treated fairly and with respect and obviously in this case it wasn’t that way,” he said.
Southern hemisphere governing body Sanzaar and Rugby Australia admitted in a statement they made a mistake.
“Sanzaar and Rugby Australia management would like to apologise to Argentina Rugby for the error that led to a photograph being published in the media that misrepresented the Rugby Championship in that it omitted Argentina,” they said.
The two sides added that they took “full responsibility” and “fully understand Argentina Rugby’s disappointment”.
“Sanzaar would like to publicly state that no disrespect was intended,” they said.
“And indeed would like to thank Argentina Rugby for its unselfish and committed contribution to the Rugby Championship, highlighted by the fact that it has played all matches away from home over the last two years.”
Sanzaar explained they decided to press ahead with the session so pictures could be taken of Savea and Kolisi together ahead of what was the historic 100th Test between the two countries.
Hooper was also there to show off the Wallabies’ new indigenous-themed jersey.
“However, during the photo session a communications breakdown led to a photograph being taken of the three attending captains with the trophy, minus the absent Argentina captain,” they added.
The final four rounds of the Rugby Championship are being played entirely in Australia’s Queensland state due to Covid travel restrictions.