Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Stars Since 2007 - Santiago Fernández

One player certain to feature for Argentina at New Zealand 2011 is Santiago Fernández. The Pumas international centre and flyhalf has been a mainstay in the team since making his debut vs Italy in Torino in November 2008 as a replacement. Los Pumas won the match but injuries took their toll as Argentina´s star 10-12 combination of Juan Martín Fernández and Felipe Contepomi were both unable to play in Argentina´s next match vs Ireland at Dublin´s legendary Croke Park. To complicate matters further, Biarritz and Pumas playmaker, Marcelo Bosch was also unavaliable due to injury. With all three missing, Fernández was given the task of making his first start at the age of 22 vs the highest points scorer in the history of the Heineken Cup and Irish rugby, Ronan O´Gara. Ireland won the match but could only score one try, in the 76th minute.

At the time of his international debut, Fernández was still an amateur player, playing in Argentina for the Hindu Club in Buenos Aires. He was a part of the PladAR system in its first year and played in the Los Jaguares home series vs Namibia in May 2009. He had however, first appeared for Argentina A in 2007 playing in the IRB Nations Cup in Romania in matches vs Italy A, Namibia and South Africa A. With both Contepomi and Bosch injured for the June 2009 international series, Fernández was named on the bench for the first test vs England and then started in the second in place of specialist centre Miguel Avramovic. Fernández playing 12 outside Juan Martín Hernández performed well in a young Pumas team which defeated England in Salta. With the trio of Hernández, Contepomi and Bosch all having undertaken surgery in 2009, Fernández was selected as Argentina´s starting flyhalf for the November tour of England, Wales and Scotland. Fernández played the full 80 minutes in every match and was partnered by a debutant, Martín Rodriguez Gurruchaga. Despite inexperience at the top level and the pair being amateurs, the young inside backs put in solid performances that have seen the pair remain in the side today despite injured players now being avaliable. The low scoring win over Scotland at Murrayfield underlined both players as future stars. Both went on to play for Los Pampas XV in the teams first season of the Vodacom Cup in 2010.

At the time of the November 2009 tour to Europe, Fernández was rumoured to be in talks to play in Australia for the Western Force and in South Africa for Bolland and the Stormers. Neither move took place but in early 2010, Fernández officially signed to play in France for Top 14 side, Montpellier alongside French international flyhalf François Trinh-Duc. Fernández has been the clubs first choice inside centre in this, his first season of professional rugby. He has also started in multiple occassions at flyhalf when required due to Trinh-Duc´s involvement with the French test side or unavaliability due to injury. Fernández´s form for Los Pampas XV and subsequently Montpellier saw him start in Argentina´s 2010 internationals vs Scotland, France and Italy at inside centre.

Born on 28 November 1985, Fernández remains a young player and looms as the player to take over in the Pumas midfield in the post-Felipe Contepomi era. Like Contepomi, his ability to play at both flyhalf and inside centre is sure to give him plenty of test time for Argentina. As of May 2011 his test career stands at twelve appearances with ten being in the starting XV - Four times as flyhalf and six as inside centre. He has not scored a test try but did score a try for Los Pumas vs the French Barbarians in 2009 and in total has scored 51 points in non-internationals for Argentina. He is certain to feature for Argentina at Rugby World Cup 2011 and beyond and is a player to watch out for in the future.

Rubgy : le MHR redresse la tête por 7LTVMONTPELLIER

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