Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Stars since 2007 - Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga

Argentina were given a massive challenge ahead of Los Pumas November 2009 tour of England, Wales and Scotland with the unavaliability of seasoned professionals due to injury. Leading players in the positions of flyhalf and inside centre were out injured creating a huge problem for the coaching staff. Pumas coach, Santiago Phelan was forced into making some significant changes and one such change dmonstrated both courage and confidence in a number of players. Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga was selected for the European tour as an uncapped player. He had never played for Argentina, not even in a South American international against Chile or Uruguay. With no Avramovic, Bosch or Contepomi Argentina opted to use the uncapped Rodríguez Gurruchaga as an inside centre rather than his club position of fullback. This meant a test debut for Rodríguez Gurruchaga vs England at Twickenham and he was the goalkicker. He went on to start all three tests and remarkably scored all of Argentina´s points in every match in the 12 shirt outside another amateur, Santiago Fernández. Despite having a 10-12 amateur combination, Argentina were nonetheless very competitive and Rodríguez Gurruchaga snatched a win for Argentina with a late drop goal against Scotland.

Following his impressive performances on the 2009 European tour, Rodríguez Gurruchaga was singled out as a player for the future and in the subsequent months he received an offer from Stade Français with whom he played his first professional season of rugby in the 2010-2011 season. He played at both fullback and inside centre and enjoyed success in both positions. His first season as a professional very nearly had him being a Paris hero after he landed a long range drop goal in the 2011 Amlin Challenge Cup Final to put Stade Français 18-12 ahead with only six minutes of play remaining. Ironically, it took another young Pumas back to deny the Parisians the championship as Gonzalo Camacho scored a try in the final minutes. It was a bad ending to a forgettable season for Stade Français but at the same time a strong ending to what was an impressive debut season as a professional for Rodríguez Gurruchaga.

Born April 12, 1985 in Rosario, Rodríguez Gurruchaga´s quick rise to stardom came as a result of coming through the ranks of Argentine domestic rugby. He made his debut in Argentine colors in December 20006 for Argentina as a Sevens player for the IRB World Sevens events in South Africa and Dubai and also played in the London and Edinburgh events in 2007. Rodríguez Gurruchaga was then a star for Argentina in Sevens Rugby the following season as he played every tournament of the IRB World Sevens series including Argentina´s win in San Diego, California and the World Cup in Dubai in which he was a part of the Silver Medal winning side. His performances resulted in a call up to Los Jaguares (Argentina A) for whom he played against the England Saxons in the 2009 Churchill Cup and scored 12 points.

Since making his test debut vs England he has moved to his favored position of fullback where he has become Argentina´s first choice player. As of June 2011, Rodríguez Gurruchaga has played nine international matches for Argentina against opposition including England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. He has scored 42 points, including tries against Italy and Wales and looms as Argentina´s permanent goalkicker in the event that Felipe Contepomi were to retire from international duty after New Zealand 2011. The two will be clubmates at Stade Français after Rugby World Cup 2011. The skills and promise shown by Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga in his first season of top flight rugby make him a player to look out for in the future. He was one of Stade Français´ best players and arguable the clubs best back in just his first season. He is certain to feature at fullback for Argentina at New Zealand 2011 and to be a key player for Los Pumas in the tournament and beyond.

1 comment: