Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who will play for Los Pumas in June?

The complications that Rugby World Cup years bring to professional competitions are well known. In the case of Europe, where most of Argentina´s test players play, there will be some problems for coach Santiago Phelan in June 2012 just like there were in June 2008. In 2008 Argentina faced Scotland twice and Italy once in home matches but Phelan was unable to play anything near the strongest lineup due to the late start to the Top 14 Orange which finished very late due to the World Cup having been in France in 2007 and the entire competition being delayed to start only after the completion of France 2007.

Figuerola to replace Vergallo?
A similar scenario looms for June 2012, but to a lesser extent. The Top 14 Orange Final is scheduled to be played on June 09th, on the same day as Argentina´s home match vs Italy. This means that players in the French final will miss the match. Should the current two top sides, Toulouse and Clermont,  qualify for the final it would mean Patricio Albacete and Nicolás Vergallo would both miss the match vs Italy. Should, however a side with more players like Montpellier, Racing Métro or Stade Français qualify it could mean many more would be unavaliable. But, the unavaliability of players for the final is not the only factor to consider. Another is that not only will the semi finals of the Top 14 Orange be played on May 26 but so will the finals of the Aviva Premiership and the Rabo Direct Pro 12. In other words, players involved in the English and Celtic-Italian finals will likely be in Argentina, at the earliest on Tuesday, four days before Argentina face Italy.

It is therefore problematic but nothing that Phelan has not seen before. The logical thing for Argentina to do would be to field the strongest possible team and this should indeed be what happens. Whilst he cannot know the avaliability of all his players until closer to the time he can already have a strong idea of which French teams will not be in the Top 14 Orange. Clubs who finish outside of the top six will have no further matches after May 12th. At which time Phelan will already have a strong idea of who will be avaliable to face Italy and who will not. Currently the top six sides are Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne, Toulon, Castres, Montpellier and Stade Français. On form they are likely to remain the best six teams. Of the teams behind them lonly really Racing Metro is likely to seriously challenge for a place in the Top 14 Orange barrage. The remaining seven are in a fight of survival  to avoid relegation to the Pro d2. They are Agen, Bordeaux, Brive, Perpignan, Lyon, Biarritz and Bayonne. On points Racing Métro and Agen are the only two who appear likely to catch the top six while the remaining sides which means players from the remaining teams can already be considered avaliable.

Could Imhoff play fullback vs Italy?
The likes of Belisario Agulla, Miguel Avramovic, Marcelo Bosch, Rafael Carballo, Pablo Cardinelli, Manuel Carizza, Agustín Figuerola, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Pablo Henn, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Nicolás Sanchez can therefore be considered. A worse case scenario would be a Montpellier vs Stade Français final as between then they account for eleven Pumas players. This being the case a possible XV to face Italy could be experimental in terms of positions. Phelan may like to see Juan Imhoff at fullback, Benjamin Urdapilleta or Nicolás Sánchez at inside centre, Andres Borody or Matias Cortese at hooker and Francisco Gomez Kodela or Juan Orlandi at tighthead prop. A possible XV to face Italy could therefore be as follows:

15 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter Chiefs, England)
13 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)
12 Benjamin Urdapilleta (Harlequins, England)
11 Horacio Agulla (Leicester Tigers, France)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
9 Agustín Figuerola (Brive, France)
8 Leonardo Senatore (Toulon, France)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon, France)
6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
5 Mariano Galarza (Los Pampas XV)
4 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz, France)
3 Francisco Gomez Kodela (Biarritz, France)
Andres Bordoy (Pau, France)
1 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)


16 Matias Corteza (Gloucester, England)
17 Juan Orlandi (Racing Métro, France)
18 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Harlequins, England)
19 Julio Farías Carbello (Los Pampas XV)
20 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
21 Ignacio Mieres (Exeter Chiefs, England)
22 Belisario Agulla (Agen, France)

Unavaliable: Lucas González Amorosino, Maximilano Bustos, Martín Bustos Moyano, Felipe Contepomi, Agustín Creevy, Santiago Fernández, Juan Figallo, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Rodrigo Roncero, Gonzalo Tiesi and Francisco Nahul Tetaz.
June 2012 - Argentina´s Home Tests
June 9: Argentina vs Italy
June 16: Argentina vs France
June 23: Argentina vs France


  1. so all the Premiership/RaboPro12 players are available but no French based players not even the ones who get knocked out at the quarter finals or semi finals?

    1. All players from the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and the Aviva Premiership will be avaliable as the final for both competitions is on May 26. The Top 14 Orange Final, in contrast, is on June 09, the same day as Argentina vs Italy. therefore players from the final will miss the clash vs Italy. Players from the twelve other French sides will be avaliable.

  2. Whats the story on Bordoy. Is he playing a lot for Pau? Pau is a second division side yeah?

    1. Yes, Pau is in the Pro d2. Bordoy played 17 matches last season for La Rochele in the Top 14 so is not as far off the pace as he may seem.

  3. In that case then I expect all Stade Français players to be available, Montpellier, Toulon, Clermont will be close as there are neutral matches in the semi finals which makes the matches a lot less obvious than they would be otherwise

    by the way surely Toulouse would release Nicolás Vergallo considering he's not going to play?

    I agree mainly with your team apart from Urdapilleta, he played for Harlequins against Toulouse in the Heineken Cup in December and simply couldn't tackle Florian Fritz who ran past him several time

    I would much prefer Mieres at 10 and Hernández, who has very good defence at 12

    1. Toulouse should make Vergallo avaliable indeed. That would help!

      Hernández hasn´t played for Argentina since 2009. Phelan is dead set on him returning to play flyhalf - likely with Fernández being the 12 following Contepomi´s probable retirement sometime this season as he will be 35. Urdapilleta is therefore named in my team with thsi in mind. Assuming Montpellier go far then Fernández will not be avaliable. If Stade Français go far than neither will Rodríguez or Contepomi. Mieres, is perfect for the bench but doubtful to be selected by Phelan at 10.

    2. Montpellier and Stade Français won't both make the final, so I think at least one of Fernández and Rodríguez will be available, so I doubt Urdapilleta has much chance

      I agree about your assessment of Phelan, but Hernández has very good defence and could hold Nonu, Fourie etc, see a video summary from a few weeks back

      these games are going to be important matches in preparation for the 4 Nations, 3 wins would be great for building confidence

      France better hope they get Toulouse/Clermont players by the way

    3. Sure, Urdapilleta at 12 is on the basis of a Stade Français vs Montpellier final. Its a worst case scenario for Los Pumas as 11 players would miss the Italian job.

      The Italian matchis really the only chance to experiment though and I do think Phelan will go for 2-3 different players. Examples could be Imhoff at 15, Bustos Moyano starting, de la Vega in the backrow and Figuerola at scrumhalf.

  4. What about Gabriel Ascarate at 12?
    I'd like to see him in inside centre position, this could be interesting!

    And what do you think of this:

    (without the MTP and Stade Francais players)
    9 Figuerola
    10 Bosch
    11 Imhoff
    12 N.Sanchez
    13 Ascarate
    14 Camacho
    15 Juan M.Hernandez

    (With the mTP-SF players)

    9 Figuerola
    10 Contepomi
    11 Imhoff
    12 Gonzalo Tiesi (if no injured)
    13 Chelo Bosch
    14 Camacho
    15 Lucas G.Amorosino

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  5. Yes, Gabriel Ascarate, will certainly be in consideration for a spot in the midfield. If Phelan were to play Bosch, Sánchez and Ascarate I think the combination would be:

    10 Sánchez
    12 Ascarate
    13 Bosch

    But, on form, Ignacio Mieres (Exeter Chiefs) is ahead of Sánchez.

    I don´t like the idea of Tiesi at 12. He is a solid defensive option at 13 and good in attack but Bosch is better.

    If everyone were avaliable the top three backlines, for me, would be:

    9 Vergallo
    10 Hernández
    11 Imhoff
    12 Contepomi
    13 Bosch
    14 Camacho
    15 Amorosino

    Second choice
    9 Figuerola
    10 Mieres
    11 Agulla
    12 Fernández
    13 Tiesi
    14 Bustos Moyano
    15 Rodríguez Gurruchaga

    Third choice
    9 Landajo
    10 Sánchez
    11 Aramburu
    12 Ascarate
    13 Avramovic or Urdapilleta
    14 Montero
    15 Tuculet

    1. I like your first backline!
      I just hope that el mago will totally recover because he is fragile and will need time to return to his best.

      If unfortunately he doesn't manage to return to his good level, i'd put Chelo at flyhalf and Ascarate or Tiesi at 13 OR Felipe at flyhalf and Ascarate at 12 with Chelo at 13.
      Gurruchaga can also play 12, he often plays here with Stade Francais with paul Williams at 13 and he already made interesting games at this position!

      Santiago Fernandez is a good and safe player, but for me he lacks speed to play at 12 and he is a little bit predictable on the field that's why i'd rather put him at 10 in case of a lack of flyhalf (for his accuracy and safety).

      For the wings, i can see that we totally agree, Imhoff and Camacho are the best there, the first one for his huge talent and skills and the other one for being a huge tackler and an unstoppable electric winger.

      The fullback must be of course Lucas Amorosino, and we don't need to explain why, he is simply the best there in the TOP 14, and such an unpredictable attacker!

    2. I never thought of it but I agree G. Amorosino is the best fullback in the Top 14.

  6. My preference for Rodríguez Gurruchaga is to play 12 and this is where he future sould lie following the revelation of González Amorosino for Montpellier. Juan Imhoff and Horacio Agulla are both good at 15 and so Rodríguez Gurruchaga can certainly permanently move to the midfield. He will be a candidate alongside Fernández to replace Contepomi in this spot.

    Bosch will likely be Argentina´s permanent 13 now with Tiesi his replacement while Avramovic, Ascarate and Urdapilleta are the cover at this point in time. Given the complexities of reserves benches, Agulla may well be cover for wing, centre and fullback with Rodríguez Gurruchaga or Fernández covering the 12 position.


    20 Figuerola
    21 Rodríguez
    22 Agulla

  7. and cubelli ??? Why is everyone overlooking cubelli who in my view would.... whatch out for this kid....he has more imagination....more pace....more intelligence than i've seen in any scrum half since pichot....

    and dont even bring up landajo....that one i dont get at all.

    1. Probably because this was written in January when nobody knew about him.