TEDDINGTON, London --- Australia veteran Matt Giteau has lauded the contributions of Argentina veteran Juan Martin Hernandez, describing his former Toulon colleague as much more than just a "beautiful man".
Giteau was in a playful mood on Wednesday morning, the returned Test star cutting a relaxed figure as he cracked a number of jokes at the expense of his teammates and "not funny" assistant coach Stephen Larkham.
And the 33-year-old 100-Test veteran didn't miss the opportunity for a sly dig at Hernandez before lavishing praise on a player who will likely be his opposite number in Sunday afternoon's second Rugby World Cup semifinal at Twickenham.
"He's a beautiful man -- I always told him that when he was at Toulon," Giteau said to raucous laughter.
"He's very skilful, he's tough, defensively strong; he adds a lot of stability, I think, to that team.
"To play with him, especially in big games, he's a very, very good player; very confident in what he does and the things that he can do a lot of others can't. I've got a lot of respect for him."
Hernandez has been a key figure in the Pumas' attacking development after returning to the Test fold midway through this year's Rugby Championship.
The man known as "El Mago" or The Magician helped fire Argentina to a maiden win on South African soil while his combination with resurgent fly-half Nicolas Sanchez has been a key component in an attack that has scored the second most tries (26) of the tournament behind the All Blacks (34).
The Pumas have clearly benefited from their inclusion in the Rugby Championship with Giteau saying a greater variety in their game was one of the key reasons why the South Americans find themselves in a second Rugby World Cup semi-final.
"Yeah I think Argentina obviously are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment -- they like to throw the ball around," he said.
"Their back three are very dangerous. Up front, obviously, they're good. They're good everywhere and they do have their own style and they're playing with that confidence. And when they're confident, they're very, very dangerous.
"I think in the World Cup they just time it well. They play well, they're a very physical team, they're very passionate, they're skilful; I think that where they've added a lot to their game is the subtleties, the little differences in their game and the explosiveness that they've got at the back.
"They're a very, very dangerous team. If you give them loose ball they're going to punish you. You saw what they were able to do on the weekend against Ireland who are a really, really good team. That just shows how far they've come and how good a team they are."
Although the Pumas boast the second-best attacking stats of the tournament, the Wallabies are coming off a quarterfinal victory over Scotland where they scored five tries themselves.
And while backs coach Larkham may need to leave the jokes at home, Giteau said it had been a pleasure working with one of his former Brumbies and Wallabies teammates.
"He's good, he's been very good (as a coach)," Giteau said. "He's not funny, he's tried a few jokes which don't work. But as far as our structure and plays, and dissecting the opposition he's very smart and he's always been like that. Even when he played he was good.
"So I knew that this was a role that he'd be good with. He used to be very, very quiet as a player but now as a coach he speaks a lot; he gets his messages across well and the way he dissects teams, it's a real pleasure to watch and the style he wants us to play is really pleasurable to play."
The Wallabies will name their side for Sunday's clash on Friday.