Saturday, January 1, 2011

Francisco Leonelli - Pumas winger born in Bolivia

Despite the Americas being the only IRB designated region to never have hosted a Rugby World Cup it is home to one of the top three performers from Rugby World Cup 2007 and one of the most respected teams in the world - Argentina. The country´s national team, Los Pumas changed the course of France 2007 in the tournaments first match by knocking over hosts, France in one of the biggest matches in Rugby World Cup history. Argentina may well be the dominat rugby country from the Americas and in particular South America but the continent has produced a second Rugby World Cup competitor in the form of Uruguay and the sport is played throughout the continent.

Former Pumas winger Francisco Leonelli played 18 tests for Argentina from 2001-2008 and was a part of some great victories for Argentina including wins over Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales and he also played wing for Argentina in the famous 25-25 draw vs the Lions in Cardiff in 2005. Leonelli, despite playing for Argentina, was not born in Argentina. Rather, he is from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. He scored eight tries for Argentina including match winning tries vs Scotland in 2005 and Wales in 2006. Unfortunately his international career was cut short in June 2009 when he was forced to leave the field early in the home test vs England in Salta. This gave the opportunity to a debutant named Lucas Gonzalez Amorisino who alongside another other young winger, Gonzalo Camacho, who that day was playing is second test is now a permanent fixture in the Argentina team.

The Bolivian export also had a successful professional career in Europe. He played in Scotland firstly for Edinburgh in 2005 before joining fellow Scottish side the Glasgow Warriors to play in what is today called the Magners League. he then moved to England to play for London side Saracens in what was the Guinness Premiership. For all three clubs he also played Heineken Cup rugby. He famously scored the match winning Heineken Cup Quarter Final try vs Ospreys as Saracens qualifieid for the semi finals for the first tiem ever, ultimately losing to eventual winners Munster. Leonelli has since returned to Argentina and plays for La Tablada.

1 comment:

  1. Well I'm sure if Bolivia had a competitive National Team, he would have played for them and being their greatest player ever. I hope he will be inspiration to all rugby players from Bolivia.