Anthony Watson will start in place of the injured Jonathan Joseph in England's only change for Sunday's Autumn Nations Cup final with France, who have been forced to field a second-string side.

Joseph sustained a calf injury in England's 24-13 victory over Wales last weekend as Eddie Jones' men made it three Pool A wins from three games in the inaugural competition.

Bath Rugby team-mate Watson, who returned from an ankle injury against Wales, has been selected on the right wing in a back three that includes Elliot Daly and Jonny May.

Max Malins and Joe Marchant are back among the replacements, with flanker Jack Willis being left out of the squad entirely.

"We're looking forward to this final, playing France and having another chance to win a trophy this autumn," said Jones, who guided his side to Six Nations success in October.

"This has been another positive learning week with tough, hard training and we're looking forward to getting on the pitch in front of our fans and playing a good game of rugby."

England's starting XV boasts more than 800 caps, which is in stark contrast to depleted opponents France.

Les Blues are without a number of key players due to an agreement between the national side and French clubs over playing limits.

Yoram Moefana has been drafted in for his first international start in place of Jean-Pascal Barraque at outside centre.

That is one of six changes made by head coach Fabien Galthie for the match at Twickenham that will see 2,000 fans back in attendance as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Alivereti Raka, Selevasio Tolofua, Hassane Kolingar, Pierre Bourgarit and Baptiste Couilloud are also recalled, the latter to captain the side in Baptiste Serin's absence.

France reached the final by topping Pool B with wins over Scotland and Italy after being handed a 28-0 walkover victory against Fiji in their opener.

England team: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (c), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins, Joe Marchant.

France team: Brice Dulin, Alivereti Raka, Yoram Moefana, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Couilloud (c); Hassane Kolingar, Pierre Bourgarit, Dorian Aldegheri, Killian Geraci, Baptiste Pesenti, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Selevasio Tolofua.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Rodrigue Neti, Uini Atonio, Guillaume Ducat, Sekou Macalou, Sebastien Bezy, Louis Carbonel, Jean-Pascal Barraque.

Australia or Argentina must do something miraculous on Saturday to rip the Tri Nations title from New Zealand's grasp.

With the All Blacks boasting a points differential of plus 64, the Wallabies need a bonus-point win with a margin of at least 101 points.

The task facing the Pumas, who also need a bonus point, is only slightly less daunting as Mario Ledesma's side must outscore their opponents by 93.

With such lofty targets to hit, this weekend's clash in Sydney is more about signing off from the competition in style than any remote prospect of actually winning it.

Nonetheless, these two sides drew in their meeting on matchday four, making it an intriguing fixture even if silverware is not realistically on the line.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown as the 2020 Tri Nations draws to a close.

FORM

Australia are enduring a tough time, with Dave Rennie's side having won only one of their previous six Tests, although that victory was against New Zealand on matchday two.

The Wallabies' record against the Pumas offers scope for encouragement for the hosts, who have lost just one of the teams' past 10 meetings.

Argentina have proven particularly stubborn in the first half of matches, conceding only one try before the break in their four games so far in the Tri Nations.

On the flip side, Ledesma's charges have allowed six second-half tries.

ONES TO WATCH

Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez has the best goal-kicking accuracy in the competition this year, nailing 85.7 per cent of his attempts. His tally of 40 points is the second best return of any player at the tournament.

Tom Wright has proven a formidable force for Australia, gaining 9.9 metres per carry, putting him top in that category of players who have made at least 10 carries.

Pablo Matera has been reinstated as Argentina captain, just two days after being sacked from the post and suspended.

The 27-year-old Matera and two team-mates have had suspensions lifted after the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) decided the sanctions imposed for historic "discriminatory" social media posts had been "unnecessary".

It was announced by the UAR on Tuesday that Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino had all been stood down from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations clash with Australia at Bankwest Stadium.

The trio were found to have posted "discriminatory and xenophobic comments" to their social media channels between 2011 and 2013.

All three were reported to have published apologies on Instagram before setting their profiles to private, while they were summoned to address a disciplinary committee on Wednesday.

Although the UAR says the disciplinary process will continue as it aims to reach a final conclusion, the governing body confirmed Matera has been restored to his previous role and all three players' suspensions have been lifted.

In a statement, the UAR said: "[While addressing the committee] the three players expressed their deep regret, reiterated the apology, ratified that it is not what they think and that it was a reckless act typical of immaturity. However, they take full responsibility and are responsible, for which they made themselves available to the commission to investigate the circumstances and seek to repair the damage caused.

"At the time of preliminary issuance, the disciplinary committee has considered and valued the attitude of the three players during this process, and understands that they have not repeated similar actions during these more than eight years, and that they have shown during this time to be people with firm and upright values, worthy of being part of our team."

It appears the trio will not be involved against Australia, with Argentina coach Mario Ledesma having already named his 23-man squad for the game, leaving out Matera, Petti and Socino.

The UAR statement added: "The disciplinary process continues and the commission will reach a final resolution in the next few days in accordance with the time of the procedure. In this first instance it considers that the maintenance of preventive measures is unnecessary, for which it resolves to lift the suspension of the three players and restore the captaincy of Pablo Matera.

"The Argentine Rugby Union and the squad have different roles and responsibilities but the same objective: to make rugby continue to grow as a sport.

"The path of deep reflection on certain practices associated with our sport, which began at the beginning of the year with the Rugby 2030 programme, we have no doubt that it will take time. And it requires, both on the part of the leadership and the establishment, to give strong signals at the right moment."

James O'Connor has been named to return for the Wallabies against Argentina in the Tri Nations on Saturday.

O'Connor is back from a knee injury, which he suffered in the second Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in October.

He will start at fly-half in Sydney, with Reece Hodge moving to full-back.

O'Connor is one of two changes to the starting side, with Allan Alaalatoa also coming in for Taniela Tupou.

"It's great to have James back in the team this weekend, he brings a lot of experience to a young group and has been working really hard to get his body right to be able to get back on the field," Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie said.

"Reece has done a great job for us at number 10 over the past two games and we're confident he'll put in another good performance for us on Saturday night from full-back.

"The side has worked really hard over the last 10 weeks or so and built a strong connection and I know as a full squad we are really keen to put together a performance that reflects that."

The All Blacks have effectively won the Tri Nations, topping the table by five points ahead of Australia and Argentina ahead of the final game of the tournament.

The Wallabies have lost only one of their past 10 Tests against the Pumas, although they are out to avoid back-to-back winless games against Argentina for the first time since 1987 after the nations drew last month.

A much-changed Pumas outfit are coming off a 38-0 loss to New Zealand and a week of controversy during which captain Pablo Matera was stripped of the captaincy and suspended over "discriminatory and xenophobic" social media posts between 2011 and 2013.

Guido Petti and Santiago Socino were also stood down from international duty.

It was reported on Thursday that Matera would be restored to the captaincy by Argentina.

Australia: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, James O'Connor, Nic White; Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Harry Wilson.
Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Irae Simone, Tom Banks.

Argentina: Santiago Carreras, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo De la Fuente, Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Felipe Ezcurra; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Matias Alemanno, Marcos Kremer, Santiago Grondona, Facundo Isa, Rodrigo Bruni.
Replacements: Jose Luis Gonzalez, Mayco Vivas, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Lucas Paulos, Francisco Gorrissen, Gonzalo Bertranou, Domingo Miotti, Santiago Chocobares.

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper will step down in January to take up a new role as head of the NFL in the UK and Europe. 

Gosper joined World Rugby in July 2012 and oversaw the sport's return to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and the delivery of the first Asian World Cup in Japan last year.

Chief operating officer Alan Gilpin will perform the role of interim CEO until Gosper's replacement is appointed.

"It's been a fantastic nine years," Gosper said. "It has been an absolute privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated rugby people around the world.

"Rugby is a wonderful sport and World Rugby is a fantastic organisation, and therefore it was a very difficult decision to leave.

"But with a new ambitious strategic plan set to launch and the strong foundations in place to drive the sport forward beyond the pandemic, the time is right for me to begin a new challenge.

"I am proud of what we have achieved together as a rugby family. While I will miss working in the sport, my passion and enthusiasm for what rugby and its values mean to so many will never diminish."

NFL executive vice president Christopher Halpin added: "The UK has been a core market of investment and growth for the NFL over the last decade, and we believe broader Europe presents a number of similar attractive opportunities to expand the game and our fan base.

"Brett's exceptional skills and experience make him the ideal leader to build on our momentum and grow the NFL."

 

Pablo Matera could face a second round of disciplinary action after Stade Francais said the sacked Argentina captain would be summoned by management when he returns to Paris. 

The 27-year-old was stripped of the Pumas armband and suspended on Tuesday after "discriminatory and xenophobic" social media posts between 2011 and 2013 were discovered. 

The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) also stood down Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations meeting with Australia. 

A disciplinary process has begun, with the UAR stating: "Although the messages were published between 2011 and 2013 and do not represent the personal integrity the three showed during that time with the Pumas, the Argentine Rugby Union condemns any expression of hatred and we consider it unacceptable that those who express them represent our country." 

The revelation about Matera's comments caused dismay at Stade Francais, the French club he joined from Jaguares 12 months ago. 

In a statement on their website, the club said: "Following the revelations by certain media of posts made in 2012 by player Pablo Matera on the social network Twitter, the Stade Francais Paris club wishes to note its total opposition to these unacceptable remarks and comments. 

"We also want to remember that since his arrival at the club in December 2019, our player has always been irreproachable in his attitude towards his team-mates and opponents, both on and off the pitch. 

"On his return from international duty, the player, who has already publicly apologised, will be summoned by club management."

Pablo Matera has been stripped of the Pumas captaincy and suspended over "discriminatory and xenophobic" social media posts between 2011 and 2013, the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) has confirmed.

Guido Petti and Santiago Socino have also been stood down from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations meeting with Australia at Bankwest Stadium.

Further sanctions could follow for the trio after a disciplinary process was initiated.

A UAR statement read: "The Argentine Rugby Union rejects the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Pumas squad on social networks.

"Meeting urgently, the board of directors resolves in the first place to revoke the captaincy of Pablo Matera and request the staff to propose a new captain to the board of directors.

"Secondly, to suspend Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from the national team until their disciplinary situation is defined.

"Although the messages were published between 2011 and 2013 and do not represent the personal integrity the three showed during that time with the Pumas, the Argentine Rugby Union condemns any expression of hatred and we consider it unacceptable that those who express them represent our country."

Following the publication of the UAR statement, Matera deactivated his Twitter account.

Matera, Petti and Socino all reportedly published apologies on Instagram before setting their profiles to private.

England saw off Wales 24-13 in a scrappy Llanelli battle as Eddie Jones' men clinched top spot in Group A of the Autumn Nations Cup. 

Tries from Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola plus 14 points from the boot of captain Owen Farrell - who became the sixth man to kick 200 penalties in Test rugby - did the job for the visitors. 

There was little running rugby on view at Parc y Scarlets, where Wales showed dogged resistance at times, an improved showing for coach Wayne Pivac whose team halted a six-game losing streak with a shaky victory over Georgia in their previous outing. 

But England rode out the shock of conceding an early try against the run of play and were comfortable enough winners in the end.

Johnny Williams nudged Wales ahead on 10 minutes, with Dan Biggar kicking a loose ball through and Williams showing good football skills himself before grounding for the first points of the game. Leigh Halfpenny added the conversion. 

Slade got England on the board in the 15th minute, an easy run to the line in the left corner after the visitors moved the ball sharply through hands, but Farrell pulled his kick wide. 

Halfpenny then sent a 45-metre penalty a foot wide of the right post, missing out on points Wales could ill afford to let slip away. 

Farrell booted England into the lead for the first time after Wales flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes was punished for not releasing the ball. 

And England were kicking at almost every opportunity when in possession, but a combination of their erratic work and pressure from the Welsh was keeping it tight. Farrell added a second penalty to edge England into an 11-7 interval lead. 

The Welsh defence was impressing but they were bereft of an attacking threat and at times it looked like a damage-limitation exercise, with Vunipola plunging over from close range near to the posts for the second Red Rose try in the 51st minute. 

Farrell could hardly miss and duly stretched England's lead to 18-7, before a spell of Welsh pressure saw the hosts earn a pair of penalties that Biggar seized on to claim six easy points. 

A third Farrell penalty saw England to an eight-point cushion, after Wales knocked on, and he slotted a fourth in the 72nd minute to make sure. 

Sam Cane expressed his pride in New Zealand's response to two successive Test defeats, after the All Blacks ran out 38-0 winners over Argentina.

Will Jordan's late double helped cap off a supreme display in Newcastle, as New Zealand took a huge step towards securing the Tri Nations crown.

Their campaign is now over, with two wins and two defeats, though their points difference (+64) should see them clear of Argentina or Australia, who meet next week.

Argentina made history with their first Test win over New Zealand on November 14, but the All Blacks were always in complete control on Saturday as the Pumas were kept out in a game for the first time since June 2016.

"It's extremely satisfying. There's no hiding that we had a tough few weeks, we've had a week off after the loss," said Cane, who laid down a signed All Blacks jersey in tribute to Argentinian legend Diego Maradona prior to kick-off.

"Pretty proud of the work we've put in over the last two weeks. The scoreboard doesn't reflect the first 60 minutes, I reckon.

"Will Jordan's got an uncanny ability to get the ball in open space, so it was awesome for him to come on and have such impact. The way that the Pumas defended to keep us out multiple times is a real credit to how they played and their desire.

"I'm really proud of the way we were able to stay patient, we didn't allow that to frustrate us. We stayed patient and got there in the end."

The last time the All Blacks went on a longer losing streak than two Tests was a five-match span from July to August in 1998, but Cane insists the entire squad understands the expectancy of playing for the three-time world champions.

"It's tough and there's pressure but that’s what playing for the All Blacks is all about," Cane, sporting a nasty cut above his right eye, added.

"I'm proud of how the group stuck together in camp. A happy group and we've worked really hard to get better."

Jordan's cameo from the bench was particularly eye-catching, with the 22-year-old making three clean breaks for a total of 125 metres, scoring his first two international tries and playing a key part in creating Patrick Tuipulotu's late five-pointer.

It merely added gloss to a fine team display, with New Zealand controlling 71 per cent of the ball at McDonald Jones Stadium, the All Blacks having amassed 203 metres by half-time – Argentina managing just 35 in comparison in the opening 40 minutes.

It was a performance with Argentina skipper Pablo Matera put down to the entire team, rather than any individual mistakes.

"We were not clinical. Not enough pressure on the ball. Silly mistakes in defence as well. Not a good day for us," he said.

"I don't think [the changes] were the problem. The guys who played for the first time in the tournament put in a lot of energy.

"It was the whole team, many mistakes and handling errors, so I wouldn't put the mistakes to a name, it was something from the whole team.

"We have to watch the game again, analyse, be really hard on ourselves. Prepare for a good game, a lot of work for the last game of the season. We deserve that, we work really hard."

Will Jordan came off the bench to score two sensational tries as New Zealand returned to form with a dominant 38-0 victory over Argentina to put themselves in pole position for the Tri Nations crown.

Argentina claimed their first competitive win over the All Blacks on November 14, but in their 31st Test meeting it was New Zealand who triumphed in the Newcastle heat to end a two-match losing streak.

Nicolas Sanchez produced a masterclass in the reverse outing, but Argentina's fly-half was kept under lock and key as tries either side of half-time from Dane Coles and Ardie Savea put New Zealand in control.

Ian Foster turned to his bench with just over an hour played, and the changes swiftly paid dividends, 22-year-old Jordan sprinting over for his first two international tries before making a break which led to Patrick Tuipulotu wrapping up a bonus-point win to round off the All Blacks' campaign.

It leaves New Zealand on 11 points with a points difference of 64, meaning Argentina (-28) or Australia (-36) – who face-off next week – will have to turnaround a huge deficit if either of them are to clinch the trophy.

Argentina claimed their first competitive win over the All Blacks on November 14, but in their 31st Test meeting it was New Zealand who triumphed in the Newcastle heat to end a two-match losing streak.

Nicolas Sanchez produced a masterclass in the reverse outing, but Argentina's fly-half was kept under lock and key as tries either side of half-time from Dane Coles and Ardie Savea put New Zealand in control.

Ian Foster turned to his bench with just over an hour played, and the changes swiftly paid dividends, 22-year-old Jordan sprinting over for his first two international tries before making a break which led to Patrick Tuipulotu wrapping up a bonus-point win to round off the All Blacks' campaign.

New Zealand captain Sam Cane laid down an All Blacks shirt in honour of Diego Maradona ahead of kick-off, before a typically fearsome haka set the tone for a fast start.

Jordie Barrett missed a penalty and his older brother Beauden saw a five-pointer disallowed, but New Zealand's early pressure told.

The All Blacks, who finished the first half with 203 metres gained compared to 35 for Argentina, had already won 20 rucks by the 10th minute, and a moment later Coles raced over in the corner after latching onto a looped pass from Richie Mo'unga, who added the extras.

Mo'unga knocked over a penalty as New Zealand kept the momentum going, Akira Ioane lunging in down the left only to hit the touchline before grounding the ball.

Fly-half Mo'unga should have put New Zealand 13-0 up on the stroke of half-time, yet hit the post with a penalty right in front of the sticks.

Argentina's second-half resistance lasted just 12 minutes, with Savea wriggling through after a well-worked line-out.

Mo'unga converted, though New Zealand's push for a bonus point was hitting a Pumas wall until Jordan came on.

Just hree minutes after his introduction, Jordan pounced on a fumble in midfield to race clear and slide in under the sticks.

It was the same story straight from the restart, Jordan intercepting a sloppy pass to burst down the right and seal his double.

Tyrel Lomax's yellow card for a high tackle proved the only blot in New Zealand's copybook, with the All Blacks still finding time to score a sublime team try.

Tuipulotu helped himself to five points at the culmination of a slick break as Argentina were kept scoreless for the first time since losing 27-0 to France in June 2016.

New Zealand presented a signed All Blacks jersey with Diego Maradona's name on the back before Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.

Skipper Sam Cane laid the shirt, which bore the number 10, in the middle of the pitch before the hosts' traditional haka ahead of the match in Newcastle.

It was a touching tribute following the Argentinian legend's death on Wednesday at the age of 60.

Maradona attended numerous Pumas matches and was in England to follow the team's fortunes at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

His passing marked a three-day period of mourning in his home country, where Maradona was held in the highest esteem.

Tributes have poured in from the world of sport and beyond, with many insisting Maradona – who inspired Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup – was the greatest player of all time.

It is all to play for in the Tri Nations series as New Zealand look to exact revenge on Argentina in the penultimate round of the tournament on Saturday.

The Pumas made history by securing their first victory over the All Blacks in Sydney a fortnight ago, Nicolas Sanchez scoring all of their points in a famous 25-15 triumph.

Mario Ledesma's side will be desperate to secure a win that would move them above New Zealand into top spot as Argentina mourns the death of Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest ever footballer who passed away on Wednesday aged 60.

New Zealand were licking their wounds last weekend when Argentina held hosts Australia to a 15-15 draw and will be expected to come out firing on all cylinders at McDonald Jones Stadium.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown in Newcastle, where the two sides start level on six points along with the Wallabies, as New Zealand play their final game.

 

FORM

New Zealand have lost their last two Tests, having gone down 24-22 to Australia in the third round. The last time the All Blacks went on a longer losing run was a five-match span from July to August in 1998.

Argentina are undefeated in three Tests, winning two and drawing one – the Pumas have not gone more than three without a loss since a four-match winning streak five years ago.

The Pumas can boast the best tackle success rate (89 per cent) in the Tri Nations and are the only side yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (11/11).

ONES TO WATCH

All Blacks captain Sam Cane has hit more attacking rucks (65) than any other player in 2020 Tri Nations, while prop  Joe Moody will win his 50th cap.

Argentina lock Guido Petti has stolen the most lineouts (3) of any player in the tournament, as many as the entire New Zealand squad combined.

George Ford will start at fly-half when England face Wales in their final Autumn Nations Cup Group A match on Saturday.

Ford made his return from an Achilles injury off the bench in the 18-7 victory over Ireland at Twickenham last weekend, but will take the number 10 shirt at Parc y Scarlets.

Captain Owen Farrell shifts to inside centre, partnering Henry Slade after Ollie Lawrence was omitted from the squad due to a hip injury.

The England side is otherwise unchanged as Eddie Jones' men look to make it three wins out of three and seal top spot.

Luke Cowan-Dickie and Anthony Watson have been named on the bench after recovering injuries, while Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jonny Hill, Dan Robson, Will Stuart and Jack Willis are the other replacements.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns to the Wales starting line-up in Llanelli following the win over Georgia.

Under-fire head coach Wayne Pivac has made eight changes to his side, with Leigh Halfpenny replacing Liam Williams at full-back, Josh Adams starting on the wing and Lloyd Williams and Dan Biggar getting the nod as the half-back pairing.

 

England team: Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Anthony Watson.

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Lloyd Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Webb, Callum Sheedy, Owen Watkin.

Diego Maradona had a "magic" about him that was able to unite and excite a divided Argentina, according to Pumas rugby coach Mario Ledesma.

Speaking hours after it was announced that Maradona had died at the age of 60 in Buenos Aires, Ledesma spoke in Australia ahead of Argentina's Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand.

He highlighted the universal appeal of Maradona, saluted his attitude towards representing his nation, and told of how the footballer was a fervent supporter of Argentinians in sport the world over.

Maradona notably visited England to cheer on Argentina in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"He had an attraction, like the world stopped when he was there," Ledesma said.

"It was like magic and he was an example of how you should play for this jersey, and to be fair he was passionate about every team. He would go and watch tennis, hockey, rugby, football, everything.

"Whenever there was an Argentinian jersey he was there and he united people in Argentina, and in Argentina sometimes it's difficult to unite people who think different."

Political instability, economic problems and social unrest have afflicted Argentina during Maradona's long career in football, which included spells in Europe with Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla.

At the time of his death, Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning captain was coach of top flight club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata.

The country is now entering three days of mourning.

"He gave a lot of happiness to a lot of people in difficult times," Ledesma, 47, said.

"Obviously he's somebody that came from very little and he became the king of the world almost, so that gives hope for a lot of Argentinians that struggle and think that could be possible for them too."

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster expects Argentina to have even greater emotion in the wake of Diego Maradona's death.

Arguably the best footballer of all-time, Maradona died at the age of 60 after a suspected heart attack on Wednesday.

An icon in Argentina after leading the country to the 1986 World Cup title, three days of official mourning were declared in the nation following Maradona's death.

Meanwhile, the Pumas are preparing to face New Zealand in the Tri Nations in Newcastle on Saturday.

Foster said there could be added emotion for Argentina, who beat the All Blacks for the first time in a stunning upset earlier this month.

"It's hard to say from our perspective, but I mean clearly it's a sad day for Argentina as a nation," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"I guess all we can do is we commiserate with them, he's an iconic sporting person and clearly had a lot of meaning for the people of Argentina so we just acknowledge that.

"Clearly when you're going into a game you're the next big game off the track for that country. It's going to have some emotional appeal but that's something that they will deal with and they will control.

"We've got to control our own emotions and we've got plenty of reasons and plenty of determination to play for our country as well and representing our people and doing what we need to do to fix up a performance two weeks ago is pretty high on our list."

Argentina have two games left in the Tri Nations, with the Pumas, All Blacks and Wallabies all locked on six points in the table.

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