Friday, July 2, 2010

Puerto Madryn - Estadio Raúl Conti

Photo World Stadium
On June 11 2006 Patagonia played host to international rugby for the first time in history as Argentina played Wales at the Estadio Raúl Conti in the small coastal city of Puerto Madryn in Chubut province. The city was chosen to host the match as part of the UAR's policy of taking test matches to different parts of the country. Puerto Madryn was picked specifically for this match because it has a large Welsh speaking population. 

The city was founded in 1865 when around 1,500 immigrants from Wales arrived in a sailing ship. They gave the port the name Porth Madryn which is named after an estate called Madryn in Wales. The descendants of these people continue to speak Welsh in addition to Spanish.

The local population welcomed the Welsh team with open arms for the match in 2006. It was a fesitval week in the city with the visitors being received like heroes, or so until match day. The red and white was swapped for celeste y blanco with the locals cheering on Argentina. The Estadio Raúl Conti was packed with 15,000 fans who were treated to a very good match which Argentina won 27-25. 

With a population of close to 58,000 the city is far from being one of Argentina's 10 largest cities. But given it has hosted a high profile international rugby match recently it certainly should be considered as an option should Argentina host a Rugby World Cup. Considering Nelson hosted three matches in Rugby World Cup 2015 Puerto Madryn is an option. Trafalgar Park in Nelson has a capacity of 16,000 and the city has a population of 45,000. 

If a city and stadium of this size can host Italy v Russia, Italy v USA and Australia v Russia then the Estadio Raúl Conti appears to be an option worth serious consideration should Argentina host a Rugby World Cup. Moreover Gloucester will host four matches including Scotland v Japan in 2015. The Estadio Raúl Conti could also be improved or be entirely upgraded to have a larger capacity and better facilities.

Puerto Madryn is located around 1,100KM south of Buenos Aires and 500KM south of another potential Rugby World Cup venue, Bahia Blanca. By way of comparison the distance from Nelson to Dunedin is around 800KM and considering Italy played the USA and Ireland five days apart at these locations in 2011 there is no reason why similar things could not happen in Puerto Madryn. 

It could arguably host two Rugby World Cup matches with teams given equal or more time between fixtures. Wales could play their second and third pool matches at the Estadio Raúl Conti against the lower ranked teams in the group and play their other two at larger venues such as, but not limited to, Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata or Santa Fé.

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