Thursday, July 22, 2010

Famous Faces Abroad - Argentine players at Toulouse

Southwestern France´s most prestigious team, Stade Toulousain or simply Toulouse, is the most successful rugby team in the history of France and of Europe. The club has won a French record of 17 French Championship titles, the most recent being in 2007-2008. In addition, Toulouse have won the Heineken Cup four times (1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010) which is more than any other team.

Toulouse will have three Pumas test players for the 2010-2011 season. All of whom are highly likely to not only make the squad for Rugby World Cup 2011 but also be in the match day 22 for all of Argentina´s matches. Playing for such a high profile team speaks wonders for the players themselves. To have three playing together for the club illustrates the abundance of talent of players being produced in Argentina.

Pumas second-rower Patricio Albacete will be playing his sixth season for Toulouse and his eighth in France overall having previously played for former Top 14 clubs Pau and Colomiers. Albacete is regarded as the best second-rower in France over the past few seasons. Since Rugby World Cup 2007 he has stood out as the dominant second-rower in the country. Albacete made his debut for Argentina vs Paraguay in 2003 and quickly earned his place as a first choice player. He scored his first and only try for Argentina vs Georgia in Lyon during Rugby World Cup 2007. In France 2007, he played in all of Argentina´s matches and is certain to do the same in New Zealand 2011. Albacete has played 38 tests for Argentina.

Pumas hooker, Alberto Vernet Basualdo will be playing his fourth season for Toulouse and needs a good one as he was dropped for the June 2010 internationals in favor of Argentine based, Agustin Creevy. The Oso (Bear) is seen as the successor to Pumas veteran and fellow French based hooker, Mario Ledesma but with Creevy performing well he needs a strong season for Toulouse to prove he merits a spot in the match day 22. Vernet Basualdo was the second choice hooker for Argentina at Rugby World Cup 2007 and was one of only two hookers selected for the tournament. He was not selected for the June 2010 internationals vs Scotland and France. Ledesma and Creevy were prefered. Clearly, he has been put in a situation of needing to perform or else face the reality of missing New Zealand 2011. He made his test debut vs South Africa in 2004 and has played 12 tests for Argentina so far.

Pumas scrum-half, Nicolas Vergallo signed for Toulouse for the 2010-2011 season from pro d2 side, US Dax where Vergallo had played the previous two seasons. His contract with Toulouse is a dream come true. It will help him immensely by being able to play alongside All Black legend, Byron Kelleher and behind a ferocious forward pack. Vergallo is in competition with Alfredo Lalanne and Agustin Figuerola for the Pumas number 9 shirt and will be looking for a great season to keep the jersey which he mae his own after a test recall in June in which he performed outstandingly vs France.

Following the retirement of Agustin Pichot in 2007, Vergallo was the prefered 9 but a poor match vs England in June 2009 saw him dropped and he had to wait 12 months for his test recall. Interestingly, like the case of hookers, Argentina only took 2 scrum-halves to France 2007. So, if the same happens again he needs to play well for Toulouse to guarantee his place in at New Zealand 2011. Playing for Toulouse will be a massive advantage for him and will be great for the club. He is replacing former French scrum-half, Jean Baptiste Ellisalde who has retired. Vergallo debuted for Argentina in 2005 vs Samoa and has made 14 test appearances, including 11 in the run on XV.

With three Argentine players playing for such a legendary team, the quality of players cannot be ignored. They are, like previous players showing the world that Argentina is one of the best rugby country´s in the world. Future players from their country should have the honor of playing a Rugby World Cup at home in Argentina in 2023.

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