Argentina vs Namibia / Romania - Rugby World Cup 2003
Pumas backrower, Martín Durand
Despite not having the best campaign in Australia 2003, Argentina were still able to score some fantastic tries and were far too strong against both Namibia and Romania.
The South American´s exited the tournament in only the sixteenth day of the event. Such was the diabolical scheduling handed to a number of teams by tournament organizers that the likes of Argentina, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Namibia and Tonga had to play four Rugby World Cup matches in 16 days or less. In contrast established giants of the game such as the host nation, Australia, had a far easier ride. The extent of how badly the organizers got the match schedule can be seen in Australia vs Ireland. The Wallabies faced Ireland seven days after Argentina had been eliminated.
It was extremely unfair on the teams mentioned and it certainly had a lot to do with the fortunes of these sides at Australia 2003. Japan´s two winable matches were played four days apart and as such Japan was not able to be fully prepared or at full strength to take on Fiji and the USA and exited the tournament winless. Italy had defeated Wales in the 2003 Six Nations but were unable to match this in Australia as Italy had faced Canada only four days prior. Wales then faced New Zealand in its final match eight days latter. In the same pool Tonga faced Italy, New Zealand, Wales and Canada in fifteen days and was winless. Argentina had one day more than Tonga did, for its four matches, and like the Pacific Island country, Argentina was given no favors from the tournament organizers.
Los Pumas had been defeated by Australia in the tournament´s first match and thus had to win its three remaining matches to make the Quarter Finals. The matches vs Namibia and Romania were preperation for the do-or-die match vs the Irish. The clash vs Ireland was horribly organized from the start with it taking place four days after Los Pumas had played Romania some 1374KM away. Argentina therefore had no option but to field a side that combined second-string players with some of what would be the starting XV vs Ireland. Argentina went into the clash vs Romania having defeated Namibia 67-14 four days after losing to the Wallabies. The win over the African side was notable in that none of the starting XV vs Australia got on the score sheet.
Such was the short turnaround that coach Marcelo Loffreda opted to field a vastly changed side. Vs Romania, Loffreda recalled some of Argentina´s stars. But not all of them. The 9-10 combination, for instance was different to that which would face Ireland. Amongst the players who combined to defeat Romania 50-3 were two who would go on to be amongst the top four players of Rugby World Cup 2007 - Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martín Hernández. Contepomi played 12 after having played 10 vs Australia while Hernández, who was still an amateur player, played 15. Both players went over for tries with Hernández scoring two quality tries. Argentina´s first try went to outside centre, Martín Gaitan who backed up his hattrick vs Namibia and was to be Argentina´s starting outsude centre at France 2007 but was forced to retire after experiencing heart problems in Argentina´s warm up match vs Wales weeks before the tournament. The wins over Namibia and Romania put Argentina in good shape to face Ireland but with such a short turnaround it turned out to be highly complicated with Ireland eliminating Argentina with a one point victory and then facing Australia the following Saturday.