Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Stars since 2007 - Juan Figallo

Aged only 23, Juan Figallo has already established himself as one of the best loosehead props in France. In only his second year as a professional, Figallo was part of the Montpellier side that surprized the rugby world by making the Top 14 Final for the first time ever. Figallo arrived at the club before he had made his test debut. His performances for the Argentina under 19 and under 20 sides from 2006-2008 saw him surprizingly included in Argentina´s squad for the November 2008 tour of France, Italy and Ireland. He did not go on to play a match but the foundations had certainly been set for what was to come. After the tour he returned to Argentina to be selected in the PladAR program which saw him trained as a semi-professional player and he went on to play matches for the Argentina Jaguares (Argentina A) in May and June vs Namibia, the England Saxons and Canada. It was at this time that he was signed by Montpellier which saw his brief time in the PladAR program come to and end.

After a succesful debut season with Montpellier, Figallo was selected for Argentina A in an international match vs France in June 2010 and then went on to make his test debut vs France in Buenos Aires one week later as a replacement. His performance in June combined with his form for Montpellier in the Top 14 was rewarded with a place in the squad for the November internationals as Figallo was a replacement vs Italy and Ireland. Figallo returned from France at the end of the 2010-2011 season to play for Argentina vs the French Barbarians. Despite the interest in Figallo being centred on the future, his place at Rugby World Cup 2011 is not in doubt. He´ll not only make the squad but will also recieve plenty of game time. After the tournament he is likely to be a permanent starter in the team, forming a frontrow with Marcos Ayerza and Agustín Creevy. The trio are likely to be Argentina´s frontrow for the teams history making first ever Four Nations season in 2012.

Figallo´s rapid rise to stardom can be described as nothing less than extraordinary. In early 2009 he was playing in Argentina for the Jockey Club de Salta in the Northern Argentine city of Salta and two years latter was an established first choice player playing in a French Top 14 Final. He has an ideal build to go far and be remembered as an outstanding frontrower. Weighing in at 115KG and standing at 1,90m, Figallo not only has the physique required but also the technique as he has demonstrated in his two seasons as a professional player in France.

Figallo stood up when it mattered most by putting in a great performance for Montpellier in the Top 14 Final. In the scrums he was up agaisnt the highly regarded Samoan international tight-head prop Census Johnson, who at 130KG is regarded as one of the best players in the Top 14. Figallo, however, outplayed Johnson throughout the match in the scrums as he continuously pushed back the Toulouse frontrow. He was also superior in general play as Figallo was highly visible around the park. He received plenty of praise from the live commentators as well as the French press. The English commentators went as far to say that he may well be the starting loosehad prop for Argentina vs England in the opening match for both sides at Rugby World Cup 2011. Such strong words for a player aged only 23 and playing in only his second year of professional rugby underline the already impressive reputation of the Pumas frontrower who could well play at Rugby World Cup 2023 given the age of Pumas props such as Omar Hasan who was 35 at France 2007 and Rondirgo Roncero and Martin Scelzo who are 34 and 35 heading into New Zealand 2011.

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