Friday, May 18, 2012

Horacio Agulla to play 13 for Los Pumas?

With the June internationals fast approaching the Pumas outside centre position is one that is far from being resolved. Just who will play in the 13 shirt remains uncertain due to the long season that started with Rugby World Cup 2011, Argentina´s rumour of experimenting in June and the performances of players in contention for the spot. There would appear to be three players in contention - Marcelo Bosch, Gonzalo Tiesi and Horacio Agulla. All three went to the World Cup but only one is a specialist in the position. Other contenders for the position do exist, such as Agustín Gozio and Manuel Montero, but none have the same credentials and would be a long shot to start in The Rugby Championship. 

Tiesi scores vs Scotland in 2010
It would appear that the chances of Gonzalo Tiesi returning to be Argentina´s first choice outside centre are slim due to the performances of Bosch and Agulla. Having recovered from knee surgery suffered in the first World Cup match, Tiesi returned to play an Amlin Challenge Cup match for Stade Français only to miss the rest of the season, requiring shoulder reconstruction surgery. He may not have been playing rugby this seson but he remains under the close watch of Pumas coach, Santiago Phelan. Tiesi is currently in Pensacola, Florida, USA in preperation for the international season. Phelan. The UAR is investing in his recuperation to see that he can be fit and ready.

Tiesi was a good performer for Argentina in 2010 and 2011 but has now been released from Stade Français due to his injury complications and his future is unknown. His two years in Paris have not been his best as injury has severely limited his game time. While at the Harlequins from 2008-2010 he was in good form which attracted offers from teams such as Stade Français. He joined London Irish three years before joining the Harlequins and became Argentina´s leading outside centre while in England. Now, however, it would appear that it is better for him to return to the Pumas 13 shirt only when he is 100% fit. He has also not got sufficient game time under his belt to start tests in June.


Bosch vs New Zealand RWC2011
Marcelo Bosch has again been playing Top 14 and Heineken Cup rugby this season in the 13 shirt for Biarritz but the position continues to not be considered his actual position. Bosch replaced Tiesi in the first World Cup match and went on to have a solid World Cup for Los Pumas. This season he has played 14 Top 14 matches, starting in eleven of these matches and doing so in three different positions. Six of these matches had Bosch starting at outside centre, two at fullback and three times he started in his natural position of flyhalf. He was also moved about in Heineken Cup matches this season due to the clubs problems which had the team at rock bottom and facing the reality of being relgated to the Pro d2.

Bosch´s form for Biarritz  has been steady despite the clubs problems and his moving about in the team. While not ideal, Bosch has been playing good rugby and is certain to be named in Santiago Phelan´s squad for the June internationals vs Italy and France. He should be the frontrunner for the Pumas 13 shirt this season but he needs a deputy and the time to find this out is not in The Rugby Championship but sooner. Santiago Phelan needs to use the June tests to be clear on who, aside from Bosch, can play 13 if Tiesi´s recovering continues to be slow. Moreover, In June Bosch could very well well also be played in flyhalf, inside centre or fullback. 



Agulla vs England, RWC2011
Horacio Agulla is a winger who has been used at fullback for Argentina in the past and has, despite not wearing the 13 shirt, been used in the position at times during tests. The former Hindu winger has been in the form of his life this season playing for the Leicester Tigers. Agulla has been the teams first choice right winger, scoring seven tries and assisting in creating others. He was awarded try of the season by the club and also player of the season. He was also named in the Aviva Premiership Dream XV of the season. His form is, without question, top shelf and he will start for his country. But given the uncertain nature of Gonazlo Tiesi perhaps Phelan ought to try Agulla in the 13 shirt. Curiously, with Manu Tuilagi unavaliable after the World Cup, Agulla played vs the Sale Sharks and London Irish at outside centre for Leicester. This means he has played more rugby this season in the position than Tiesi. More importantly, however, it means he has been judged by the best English club as being an adequate option for the position and he indeed should be tested in the upcoming tests vs Italy and France.

Agulla was moved to 15 in 2009 to replace Bernardo Stortoni who had taken over from Ignacio Corleto after France 2007. Agulla proved to be a good performer in the position and traded between fullback and centre with new comer Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga in the November tour of Europe. He also played at outside centre following the loss of both Tiesi and Felipe Contepomi vs England at Rugby World Cup 2011. Agulla has the skills to be a test 13 and, right now, appears to be the perfect opportunity to test him out in this postion given Argentina´s current strong supply of wingers. Argentina has five players who have been performing very well this season in Europe.  Of the five Lucas González Amorosino looks certain to move to be Argentina´s starting fullback while Juan Imhoff, Gonzalo Camacho and Martín Bustos Moyano looking like filling the two wing spots. The fifth player, Agulla, could keep his player on the wing or he could be moved infield one place to outside centre which would fill the void of the position as well as ensure that as many of Argentina´s form players as possible are all on the park. It could well be where his future lies after having played two World Cup´s as Los Pumas´ left winger and now looming as being a senior player who could have a greater impact on play from the midfield. With Rugby World Cup 2015 in mind a move to the 13 shirt could well be very shrewed. 

3 comments:

  1. Paul...Excellent analysis, as ever. The question of the number 13 is perhaps -except the 8º and 9º question- the most difficult decision for Phelan. I think that the tests with Italy and France in the next June, may be an good "bench of proof" (in mechanical terms) for the Argentine Coach. Also, is another question the fly half and the 12º because Hernandez is not in his best form and Contepomi is -yet some good matches in the Sr. Fr.- in decline, due to his age. I'm worry, but the "base" of players that is available for Phelan is wide, perhaps the best "base" of the last years, since the RWC of 2007. Thanks by your comments. Néstor.

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  2. I would try Agulla at 13, and put either Bustos Moyano or Camacho on the wing

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  3. Bosch has got to be the 13 but Agulla could be a good backup

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