Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Horacio Agulla - four years of progress

Argentina were dealt a difficult hand just one week before Rugby World Cup 2007 when first choice winger and all time Pumas top try-scorer, José Maria Nuñez Piossek was ruled out of the World Cup after injuring himself in Argentina´s final warm-up fixture vs Belgium. The squad had already been confirmed and Argentina had three wingers - Lucas Borges, Hernán Senillosa and a 22 year old Argentina based player, Horacio Agulla. Senillosa was picked as a centre who could play wing as was Federico Martín Aramburu but both were overlooked in preference of Agulla who was was slotted into the starting XV for the all-important game vs France to open the World Cup. Agulla had little ball but put in a solid defensive display to shut down Aurelin Rougerie and also made the crucial play of intercepting a pass from backrower Remy Martín which resulted in Argentina´s try to Ignacio Corleto.

Agulla´s solid performance was a sign of things to play as he would go on to start in all of Argentina´s matches at France 2007 making the Pumas 11 his own. He scored one try in the tournament vs Ireland and showed the skills of an experienced professional not a 22 year old amateur player based in Buenos Aires. The young winger´s emotion stood out in the pre-match performances of the national anthem with Agulla´s emotion of starting in his country´s biggest match in four years hitting home. Like his colleagues, it did not get the better of him and he was able to focus on the task at hand.

Born October 22, 1984 Agulla attracted the interest of European clubs during Rugby World Cup 2007. Having played for Buenos Aires powerhouses, Hindu club from 2002-2007 Agulla left shortly after France 2007 to take up a contract with the then French Top 14 side, US Dax for the 2007-2008 season. The club was struggling and in constant danger of relegation and Agulla took an offer of a two year contract to play for fellow Top 14 club, CA Brive from 2008-2010. While at Brive Agulla played at both wing and fullback and was a regular starter in btoh Top 14 matches and also the Heineken Cup. In early 2010 English powerhouses, the Leicester Tigers announced the signing of Agulla to bolster the clubs already impressive back-three stocks. The clubs larger and impressive roster makes it tough for a player to get much game time. Over the course of the 2010-2011 season, Agulla was able to receive more and more game time and was permanent starter on the right wing in both the Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup in the latter stages. He started in important matches in both competitions including the Heineken Cup semi-final vs Irish side, Leinster and the Aviva Premiership Final vs Saracens.

Despite being largely unknown, Agulla had actually made his debut for Argentina back in December 2005 vs Samoa in a full international in which Argentina was not able to call upon its European based professionals due to the match taking place outside of the IRB test window of November. Agulla was given the chance of playing for his country as Marcelo Loffreda sought to find more options for Rugby World Cup 2007. Loffreda started Agulla vs Uruguay in 2006 and selected him for Argentina´s November 2006 tour of Europe in which he came off the bench in Argentina´s famous win over England and then started one week latter vs Italy. Before France 2007, Agulla started on the wing in Argentina´s win over Italy in June. Since 2007 Agulla has kept his place in Los Pumas. He was selected as a winger in 2008 starting vs Scotland, Italy and France before getting a his first chance of playing at fullback vs Ireland where he played for all of Argentina´s 2009 tests. In 2010, Agulla was used more as a winger as coach Santiago Phelan looked at confirming his squad for Rugby World Cup 2011. Agulla was given the honour of captaining Argentina vs Uruguay and Chile while he also played against Scotland, France and Ireland. As of May 2011, Horacio Agulla has played 28 tests for Argentina scoring four tries. He is certain to make Los Pumnas squad for New Zealand 2011 and to be in the team for years to come.

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