Thursday, July 1, 2010
Famous Faces Abroad - Argentine players in Mediterranean France
The Mediterranean coastal region of France is home to three clubs who will be participating in the 2010-2011 Top 14. Of the three, two were semi finalists last season and all three have test players from a number of countries. Without question, the region will have three competitive teams and with five Pumas spread between the teams there will be a lot to look out for and plenty of French fans cheering on Pumas players.
Top 14 Champions in 2008-2009, union sportive arlequins perpignanais, or simply Perpignan has been home to former Pumas second-rower, Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, since 2001. Álvarez Kairelis retired from test rugby in June 2009 after eleven years of international duty for Argentina. he made his test debut vs Paraguay in 1998 and played 44 tests for Los Pumas. His finest moment was Rugby World Cup 2007 when Argentina won the Bronze Final. The new season will be his last.
The big spenders from the mediterranean, Toulon, have two Pumas in their squad for the season, both having arrived for the previous season. The club will be aiming for glory in both the Top 14 and the Heineken Cup and the Pumas pair will have a lot to do with how this unfolds.
Felipe Contepomi is entering the season in hot form after scoring 31 points in the Pumas victory vs France in June. Captain of Argentina since Rugby World Cup 2007, Contepomi is one of the most famous players to ever play for Los Pumas. He made his debut vs Chile in 1998 and has played 68 test and has played at three Rugby World Cup´s. Contepomi is likely to be 12 for Argentina at Rugby World Cup 2011 and also for Toulon this season.
Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe is considered to be one of the best 8´s in the world. He is the younger brother of former Pumas second-rower, Ignacio Fernández Lobbe who retired from test rugby in 2008. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe is one of Argentina´s leading performers and because of this he captained Argentina in place of the injured Contepomi in 2009 in all of Argentina´s tests and in 2008 vs Ireland. he also captained English club, Sale Sharks for the 2008-2009 season. Fernández Lobbe debuted in 2004 vs Uruguay and has played 36 tests for Argentina including every minute of all sevens of Argentina´s matches at Rugby World Cup 2007.
Located between Toulon and Perpignan is the third French Top 14 club based on the Mediterranean, Montpellier Hérault , or more commonly simply called Montpellier, will be home to two young Pumas for the 2010-2011 season.
Prop, Juan Figallo debuted for Argentina vs France in June this year and will consider himself a strong chance for Rugby World Cup 2011. Aged only 22, Figallo will be playing his second season for Montpellier and is likely to recieve a lot of game time for the club. He was selected and age 20 to tour with Los Pumas in 2008 to France, Italy and Ireland. Coach Santiago Phelan has big plans for him and he will be a player to watch this season.
Santiago Fernández made his debut for Argentina in 2008 vs Italy and has played 10 tests so far. He has been used at 10 and 12 to repalce the injured Juan Martín Hernández and Felipe Contepomi. He was successful at 12 vs England in 2009 and vs France in 2010. He was 10 in the victory of Scotland in November 2009. Fernández has been signed to play for Montpellier this season to play both positions and will likely play a lot at 12 in combination with French test flyhalf, François Trinh-Duc at 10 and have the goal kicking responsabilities. Fernández replaces Argentine legend Federico Todeschini at Montpellier who has retired. It is Fernández´s first professional European contract, having previously played for the Hindu Club in Buenos Aires and Los Pampas XV in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa.