Saturday, April 28, 2012

What to do with Five Inform Wingers?

Horacio Agulla is in the form of his life this season with the Leicester Tigers. He has won the Player of the Month award twice and in addition to scoring six tries he has also been involved in creating others as he has been frequently going off his wing to be used to create options through the centres. Agulla is a working winger much more than being a finisher which explains why he has scored only four tries in his 34 test appearances for Argentina. Still aged only 27, Agulla is Argentina´s most experienced outside back and in 2009 was used as Argentina´s starting fullback. He made his debut as a 21 year old in 2005 vs Samoa.

Lucas González Amorosino scored the try of the World Cup last year to break Scottish hearts and has gone on to play outstanding rugby this season for Montpellier. His try vs Biarritz in his third game for the club set the tone for the rest of the season. Since the World Cup González Amorosino has played fifteen Top 14 matches and three Heineken Cup matches. He began the season on the right wing but has played every match since then at fullback, scoring six tries which all came with him ni the 15 shirt except for his sides home win over Racing Métro. González Amorosino stands a very good chance of winning the award for fullback of the year in the Top 14 and is highly likely to be used by Argentina in this position. He has played 14 tests and scored four tries for Argentina since his test debut vs Chile in December 2007.

Martín Bustos Moyano was left out of the World Cup squad due to carrying a minor injury during the lead up and because the coaches considered his skills to not be of the same level as other contenders. He is an accomplished player both as a winger and a goalkicker but is more famous because of the latter as he got Montpellier into the Top 14 Final last season, the first in the clubs history. The 26 year old has been used in all of the back-three positions by Montpellier and could, indeed, do the same for Argentina. He has only won one international cap, vs Chile in 2008 but his club career tells a different story altogether. He has played more rugby than any of the four other players, due to not playing in New Zealand 2011. This season Bustos Moyano has played 20 Top 14 matches, scoring 197 points including three tries. He has also played five Heineken Cup matches this season, scoring one try.    

Gonzalo Camacho is a player on form in England. Yesterday he was nominated for the award of Game Changer of the season in the Aviva Premiership. He was nominated alongside two other players,  making him one of the top three Game Changers in England and he stands a great chance of winning since the other two are from Sale Sharks, a club that has not impressed this season. The Exeter Chiefs winger has played 14 matches this season in the Aviva Premiership, scoring two tries - against London Irish and Northampton. Camacho has proven to be an 80 minute performer having only been replaced once all season and he has started every match that he played in for the Chiefs. He has also played four Amlin Challenge Cup matches this season and last season scored the winning try for the Harlequins in the final vs Stade Français. The 27 year old has thus far played 11 tests for Argentina, scoring four tries.

Juan Imhoff was an amateur but made the World Cup squad based on his performances for Los Pampas XV in the 2011 Vodacom Cup. His rise is an example of how far one can go in such a short amount of time. Imhoff is a speedster comparable perhaps to Wales´ Shane Williams in that he is small, but runs sharp lines and is difficult to stop. Racing Métro signed Imhoff as a Medical Joker as the club was missing players to injury but in no time he was able to break into the starting XV and has since been there permanently, scoring some great tries and regularly finding space. His first try, vs the Cardiff Blues has been followed by other great tries, the latest being vs Castres in early April. This season Imhoff has scored three tries in the Heineken Cup and three in the Top 14. He has played 18 matches this season for the Parisian club, starting thirteen times on the left wing, four times at fullback and coming into play once from the bench. Despite being a debutant he is a serious contender for the Top 14´s team of the year. Imhoff has played eight tests for Argentina, scoring nine tries. He is certain to be Argentina´s starting left winger this year and beyond as he is only 23 years old.

Could some play out of position?

Yes. Of the five players four have been used out of position for the English or French clubs. Agulla has played, on occassion at outside centre for Leicester and previously was used, at times, by Brive at fullback. Bustos Moyano has played on both wings and fullback for Montpellier while González Amorosino has been the clubs fullback to devastating effect this season. Imhoff was used at fullback but should be considered a specialist winger who can, if necessary, play fullback. 


Argentina´s weakness in recent years has been its goalkicking which was particularly clear in Los Pumas´ 13-9 loss to England in Rugby World Cup 2011. Neither Felipe Contepomi nor Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga was able to find the posts that evening in Dunedin and it cost Argentina victory. Argentina also had Santiago Fernández in the starting lineup and Marcelo Bosch was a first half replacement for Gonzalo Tiesi. Both players have been used, at times, to kick goals for their French clubs and have also kicked goals for Argentina. Neither player, however, is a reliable enough option and when both have played for Argentina outside Juan Martín Hernández the goalkicker has always been el Mago. 

Hernández is a better goalkicking option than Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Fernández or Bosch but not notably better. As such, an alternative goalkicker could well be the answer. In close matches goalkicking usually has a lot to do with who wins and who loses, Argentina were on the losing side in Dunedin for this reason. Should Argentina wish to field its best goalkicker then the player to look to would be Martín Bustos Moyano. The Montpellier goalkicker was one of the finds of the 2010-2011 season. His goalkicking accounted for 16 points in Montpellier´s 26-25 win over Racing Métro in the 2011 Top 14 Semi Final in Marseilles. His debut season saw the Córdoba winger score 283 points which made him the seasons third highest points scorer and the leading non-Frenchman. In the current season he has thus far scored 192 points underlining his crendentials as a goalkicker for Los Pumas.  

Could all five play together?

Yes it is indeed a possibility that may well have passed through the mind of Santiago Phelan. If he wanted to field them all it could happen with four starting and a fifth playing on the bench. Gonzalo Tiesi is currently in Pensacola, Florida training hard to return for Argentina this June. The Stade Français centre has only played two matches for the club this season due to injury. His spot could indeed be underthreat from not only Marcelo Bosch, who filled the void very well at the World Cup, but also Horacio Agulla who merits a starting place due to his form. This could see him move to the midfield. With González Amorosino appearing certain for the 15 shirt and Imhoff for the 11 shirt this would mean either Bustos Moyano or Camacho would play in the 14 shirt. If goalkicking is to be a true motivating factor in selection then Bustos Moyano should indeed start , probably, two out of the three June test matches.

The option of having such a lineup would work into the hands of Tati Phelan who has previously gone for the option of selecting a bench with only two back so that he could have the option of two props in he reserves. Should he indeed have Agulla at 13 and Amorosino at 15 then the need for an outside back reserve would appear to be nil. Argentina´s other players can more than make up for what is missing. Should Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga play 12 for Argentina like he has been for Stade Français all season then he could certainly be moved to 13 or 15 if need be. A player like Bosch would be the ideal number 22 in this situation as he has played 10, 12, 13 and 15 for Biarritz during his career with the club. 


  1. 15 Gonzalez
    14 Agulla
    11 Imhoff

    1. Thank you for the great article too.

  2. 15. Amorosino
    14. Agulla
    11. Imhoff

    22. Bustos Moyano

    I think Hernández is good enough for a goal kicker, it would be good if he was first choice goal kicker at Racing though

    either Mieres or Bustos Moyano should be on the bench in case he isn't up to it

  3. Great article, very really sums up the difficulty for Phelan to choose between these world-class players, but having this kind of choice to do is a "rich problem" and a good sign because there will be a big concurrence between all these talented players and bring the level of the team to its top.

    I'm a huge fan of Camacho, great tackler and for me one of the best defensive winger of the world. But Agulla is having a monster season with Leicester and Imhoff is...Imhoff :) the best winger in France (as a Perpignan fan I watch TOP 14 every weekend and let me assure you that yes he is the best) and one of the best young wingers of the world, he is very close to Shane Williams' level even if he is 23 and man he is only 23 he will be huge in 2/3 years! These 3 players play as permanent wingers in their clubs, and their weekly performances are very good, if not great.
    Oh and what will it be when Montero will arrive? Like we say in french 'abondance de biens ne nuit pas" (plenty is no plague :) )

    For what i saw this season, Amorosino and Bustos Moyano are always better when they play as fullback with Montpellier, for me they are fullbacks. That's my point of view.
    Gurruchaga has not played here with Paris for a while, not cuz Camara stole his place but because he is very good as a 12.

    To clear up (on my pov):
    3 wingers: Imhoff, Camacho, Agulla.-------( If necessary Carballo, Montero, Tuculet, Comuzzi...)
    2 fullbacks: Amorosino, Bustos Moyano.
    Centers: Bosch, Fernandez, Gurruchaga------ ( Tiesi, Urdapilleta, Ascarate...).
    10: Hernandez, Contepomi, Mieres-----(Sanchez)

    My backline:

    9 Figuerola
    10 Hernandez (long distance goalkicker)
    11 Imhoff
    12 Contepomi (short distance goalkicker)
    13 Bosch
    14 Camacho
    15 Agulla

    20 Vergallo
    21 Gurruchaga (can play 12-15)
    22 Amorosino (can play 11-15)

    This is what I call a master puzzle, very very hard to make choices... good luck to Tati and the staff to make the team...