Monday, August 15, 2011

The Birth of Argentina as a World Power - 1999 RWC Quarter Final

Argentina had achieved success throughout the history of rugby in the country such as drawing with New Zealand in 1985 and defeating Australia in 1997 amongst other positive results during the twentieth century. It as, however, to be in 1999 that Argentina would stand up and leave its mark on the rugby world. Argentina qualified for the Quarter Finals for the first time and as such the Rugby World Cup had a South American team in the final eight, something considered to be nothing less than extraordinary. While it was indeed history making it occured two years after the Wallabies, led by legendary captain, John Eales, had lost in Buenos Aires vs Argentina and one year after the Six Nations champions at the time, Scotland had  lost at home to Los Pumas.

En route to facing France in the Quarter Finals, Argentina had a tough set of opponents to get through and were not considered to be a candidate for the Quarter Finals stage. Argentina lost narrowly to Wales, 23-18, in the first match of the tournament but had reason to feel hard done by as the first Welsh try had the ball carrier, Colin Charvis, clearly in touch during the lead up to the try. A

rgentina could not afford further losses and made history by knocking over 1991 and 1995 Quarter Finalists, Samoa, 32-16 and then Japan by 33-12 to set up a match with Ireland in which the winner would advance to the Quarter Finals to face France. In one of the greatest matches in the history of Argentine rugby, Los Pumas pulled it off in defeating the Irish 28-24 in Lens.

As such, France and Argentina would meet in Dublin in a 1999 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final. France started really well and built a lead quickly. Argentina looked out of the contest but Los Pumas fought back strongly to be within a penalty goal at one stage before France blew away in the end to win the match 47-26 and go on to face New Zealand in what is still considered as being the greatest Rugby World Cup match of all time.

The South Americans Quarter Final exit was a sign of things to come as indeed Argentina showed to the world at Rugby World Cup 2007. After 1999, many Pumas players went on to secure professional contracts and the national team had more success than previously. Argentina returned to Wales in 2001 to defeat the Welsh at home for the first time ever and also notched up wins vs all other Six Nations sides over the following five years. Wales 1999 has thus gone down in history as being a turning point in Argentine rugby.

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