Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Rugby Championship Pumas to Watch - Juan Manuel Leguizamón

With the Six Nations Championship now underway and byes this weekend in the Aviva Premiership, Rabo Direct Pro 12 and Top 14 Orange competitions it is time to start looking indivudually at players who will be important for Argentina in Los Pumas´ groundbreaking entrance into The Rugby Championship. It is a time of utter importance for not only Argentine rugby but global rugby. The reason being that it is the first time since the creation of professional rugby that a country with absolutely no professional rugby of its own has been given a place to play as equals with the big boys.

The inclusion of Argentina could turn the tide of the international make up of rugby, which continues to have its agenda driven by the first tier of Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. The eight country group have two votes each on the IRB council. No other country does. Argentina and Italy have one each while the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga only have a vote through the Oceania region. Argentina´s inclusion in the old Tri-Nations is a step to shaking up this outdated, non-democratic set up. It is also in the interests of all second tier and many third tier sides. Georgia may well push for inclusion in the Six Nations soon while the Pacific Islanders will want to somehow have a slice of The Rugby Championship´s pie.  Incidently, Argentina 2023 supports Georgia´s inclusion into the Six Nations.

Leguizamón try vs Romania
On results Argentina should have been in The Rugby Championship in 2005. Results such as defeating Australia in 1997 and away wins over Scotland and Wales in 2001 were a sign of what was to come at Rugby World Cup 2007. All developing nations stood up and applauded as Argentina defeated three tier one sides before losing to South Africa in the Semi Final and then recovering well to win the Bronze Final. One man who was on the field in the Bronze Final and is today a vital backrower for Argentina is Juan Manuel Leguizamón. Capable of playing anywhere in the backrow at club and international level, Leguizamón is well respected in Argentine circles. His international career started in 2005 as he debuted vs Japan and scored a try. It also saw him included and start for Argentina vs the British and Irish Lions. Leguizamón filled the boots of Gonzalo Longo and was impressive to the extent that London Irish signed him.

Leguizamón scores vs Namibia
After three seasons at London Irish, Leguizamón moved to France and played for Stade Français for three years before leaving for Lyon OU this season. He was a star for Stade Français, particularly in the 2008-2009 season in th e 8 shirt. In his final season he moved to 7 and has been playing in this position for Lyon OU. At Rugby World Cup 2007, Leguizamón started vs France, Georgia and Namibia, scoring two tries against the Africans. Longo returned to face Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and France in the Bronze Final with Leguizamón on the bench. He made a famous tackle, which earned him a yellow card vs France in the Bronze Final,  on Sebastien Chabal. It has since gone down as a monster hit and is a youtube hit.

With Juan Matrín Fernández Lobbe being Santiago Phelan´s prefered choice off the back of the scrum, Leguizamón was moved to the 7 shirt in the years leading up to Rugby World Cup 2011. Playing in this position he scored tries vs England and Scotland in home tests in 2009 and 2010. His form, class and experience saw him start every match at Rugby World Cup 2011. Having played 39 tests for his country this far, Leguizamón is expected to notch up 50 appearances this year as Argentina are to play 12 test matches. The backrower is certainly going to be crucial to his teams chances and is an outstanding player.

Week Two: Lucas González Amorosino

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