Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Argentina in The Rugby Championship - New Zealand Perspective
The Rugby Championship: a Kiwi fan's perspective
by Ian Cook
In 2012, the Tri-Nations becomes "The Rugby Championship" with the long overdue addition of the kid brother of Southern Hemisphere rugby, Los Pumas, to the SANZAR family. There will be a new schedule, in which the teams play six matches each; three home and three away. There will be two matches on each match day, and those will come at two week intervals to minimise the impact of travel and allow the players sufficient recovery time between matches.
The addition of Argentina to the Southern Hemisphere's premier international rugby tournament can only be a good thing for all involved. Even the most ardent fan of the Tri-Nations would surely agree that the tournament has become stale, and was badly in need of "freshening up".
For Argentina, this is has been a long time coming and while many people have been involved behind the scenes to make this happen, one man must take a lot of the credit for driving this... former Pumas scrum-half and captain Agustin Pichot. At times this man exhibited greater skills at shuttle diplomacy than the great Henry Kissinger, traveling from Buenos Aires to London to Manchester to Sydney to Lausanne (Switzerland) and back to Buenos Aires as he negotiated not only Argentina's entry to the Tri-Nations, but also helping the IRB to fine tune its bid to have Sevens included in the 2016 Olympics.
Argentina are a peculiar case indeed in International rugby, with no professional rugby competition in their own country, and with all of their international stars based in Europe, they have managed to punch well above their weight, knocking over all of the six nations sides in a 50% winning record (14 from 28) in the last four years. This has kept them in the top eight teams in the IRB World Rankings over that time, climbing as high as third. All this with hardly any real competitive test matches between world cups, and hardly any matches at all against their Southern Hemisphere brothers. To illustrate this point, in 2012, Los Pumas will play six matches against SANZAR teams. That is more than they have played against them in the last six years combined.
I have long been a proponent of Argentina joining us in SANZAR, and I am only sorry that it did not happen back in 2006 when the the quite incredible (some might even say "brain dead") decision was taken expand the competition by adding and extra round instead of adding an extra team. Argentina was reaching their peak at that time, and culminated in their best ever world cup in 2007 when they won the bronze medal.
I only hope that in the future, they can join us in full measure by coming to the Super Rugby party at some stage. An Argentine Conference (provided it was competitive) would make a great addition to the competition.
Argentina 2023 wishes to thank Ian Cook for his contribution. Ian is one of the most well known posters on rugby forums worldwide such as www.therugbyforum.com and the defunct IRB Forum.
He has his own forum too - www.rugbyfirst.net