Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Rugby Championship Players to Watch - Manuel Carizza

27 year old secondrower Manuel Carizza has been around for a long time. So much so that he is one of only a few Pumas to have faced South Africa previously and to have played a test match in Mendoza, the same city that will host the Springboks in The Rugby Championship. He made his debut eight years ago and has played 23 tests, starting 16 of them and having made the Pumas number 4 shirt his own in recent times. He has become increasingly visible on the field in recent times with hard hitting tackles, solid scrumaging and ball carrying skills and has been used as the primary jumper at the front of the lineout. With a height of over 2 metres and weighing over 115KG Carizza has the build to match the skills necessary for international rugby.

Carizza for Biarritz
Carizza made his international debut in 2004 vs the Springboks in Buenos Aires. The test was played outside of the June / November international windows which meant professional players were not released by their clubs. His second test came in April 2005 vs Japan, again it was a match in which clubs were not obliged to release players. He was a replacement in the history making 25-25 draw with the Lions in Cardiff and then played in all three tests in November - vs South Africa, Scotland and Italy from the bench. Carizza was pushing hard to be Argentina´s fourth choice secondrower for Rugby World Cup 2007 to make up the squad. Patricio Albacete, Rimas Alvarez Kairelis and Carlos Ignacio Fernández Lobbe were certainties and Carizza was in competition with Esteban Lozada and Pablo Bouza. Carizza played three tests in 2006, facing Chile, Uruguay and Wales,  but was not picked for the November tour with coach Marcello Lofreda opting to give Esteban Lozada his debut, joining the three big name players. Lozada would go on to be Argentina´s fourth choice secondrower at France 2007 despite Carizza starting vs Italy in Mendoza in June that year.

Carizza wins lineout ball vs England
Although Carizza was overlooked for Rugby World Cup 2007, he was developing greatly as a player in France. He had joined Biarritz in 2005. At the time the club was nothing short of a powerhouse, winning the French Championship in 2005 and 2006 as well as being the Heineken Cup runners-up in 2006. Biarritz next made the Heineken Cup Final in 2010 with Carizza being an important player for the club. The timing was ideal for Los Pumas as both Carlos Ignacio Fernández Lobbe and Rimas Alvarez Kairelis had retired from international duty despite still playing for Perpignan and Northampton. The year 2010 saw Carizza become Argentina´s first choice number 4 as he joined Albacete to form what is becoming a long term secondrow combination. They function very well together with Albacete being more of a loose player and Carizza more of a tight player. The combination worked well, going on to be used at Rugby World Cup 2011 and starting four of the five matches of the tournament. Carizza had a fine World Cup, getting through a high amount of work.

Carizza is a player bucking the historical trend of Los Pumas. At France 2007 Argentina´s 30 man squad had 26 players from Buenos Aires. At New Zealand 2011, however, the number was 18. Carizza was one of six players from Argentina´s third largest city, Rosario. The same city will host Argentina vs Australia in The Rugby Championship with Carizza likely to be the starting number 4. The pair could indeed still be the starting pair at Rugby World Cup 2015 considering the age and form of the two players. Together they ensure that Argentina has a solid and reliable secondrow in all areas of play. 

Week Three: Marcelo Bosch
Week Four: Agustín Creevy
Week Eight: Rodrigo Roncero
Week Nine: Gonzalo Camacho
Week Ten: Patricio Albacete
Week Eleven: Horacio Agulla
Week Twelve: Juan Figallo
Week Thirteen: Santiago Fernández
Week Fourteen: Tomás Cubelli 
Week Fifteen: Marcos Ayerza
Week Sixteen: Manuel Carizza
Week Seventeen: Nicolás Vergallo

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