Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Rugby Championship Players to Watch - Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga

Versatile Pumas back, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga is a player at an important stage of his career. The 27 year old has been a permanent feature in the Argentine team since making his test debut vs England in November 2009. His debut was an unlikely event as it came due to the unavaliability of Felipe Contepomi, Juan Martín Hernández and Marcelo Bosch. With none of them playing, Headcoach Santiago Phelan opted to field the 2009 URBA Top 14 top points scorer in the midfield, not his usual position. It was a risk but Phelan was not left with many alternatives due to other inside centre options being considered to not having taken their chances earlier in 2009. Contepomi had injured himself badly in that years Heineken Cup Semi Final which meant he missed all of Argentina´ tests. Replacing him for the first test of the year was a specialist inside centre in the form of Miguel Avramovic. He, however, was dropped after one match, being replaced by Santiago Fernández. Rodríguez Gurruchaga combined with Fernández at flyhalf to form a 10-12 combination for the three test tour of Europe. The pair proved their worth and Rodríguez Gurruchaga scored all of Argentina´s points on the tour, leaving his mark on the Scot´s with a late drop goal claiming victory at Murrayfield.

MRG vs Toulouse
The debut tour with Los Pumas was a life changing experience for Rodríguez Gurruchaga as clubs were able to see him in action at the elite level for the first time. French giants Stade Français showed interest in him and after talks signed him on a two year deal from 2010-2012. He took little time in breaking into the starting line up, scoring 16 points, including a try in his debut for Stade Français against none other than Toulouse in an away Top 14 match in 2010. His form in his debut season in the Top 14 prepared him well for international duty - Rugby World Cup 2011. At the World Cup, Rodríguez Gurruchaga, like for Stade Français was used as both an inside centre and a fullback. In New Zealand he started in four of Los Pumas´ five matches. After the tournament he returned to Paris and had a solid season for the club which finished midtable, missing out on qualifcaiton for the Heineken Cup on a technicality. He retruend for round 8 of the Top 14 to take his place on the bench. The following round he started at inside centre and he remained there for the rest of the season starting the next 17 matches in the 12 shirt. The club has been satisfied with him and recently signed Rodríguez Gurruchaga on a new contract to stay in Paris for the next two years.

MRG supported by González Amorosino
2009 Sevens World Cup Final
Before playing in France, Rodríguez Gurruchaga had an interesting time as an amateur player in Argentina. The player known as Tincho almost quit rugby in his early 20´s after having to undergo knee surgery for a second time but decided to give it another shot and has been richly rewarded as he made the Argentine Sevens team and was a star player for the team that won the 2009 USA Sevens in San Diego, California and finished second in the 2009 World Cup in Dubai. He was joined by a number of future Pumas such as Martín Bustos Moyano, Gonzalo Camacho and Lucas González Amorosino. The Sevens success´of 2009 proved to be career changing with the 2010 inovation of the creation of Los Pampas XV and the teams involvement in the Vodacom Cup. Rodríguez Gurruchaga was an original  in the first PladAR squad and is an example of the talent the program is able to unearth.

With Rodríguez Gurruchaga being a proven performer at both inside centre and fullback he is certain to be very useful for Los Pumas, bringing plenty to the table in the Rugby Championship. It would appear that the fullback position will be taken by Lucas González Amorosino who was the leading 15 in the Top 14 this past season, continuing his superb form which saw him score the try of the tournament in New Zealand 2011. This will likely mean that Rodríguez Gurruchaga will be used as a centre with him being a contender alongside Santiago Fernández for the Pumas 12 shirt to face Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He is also a contender for the 13 shirt and could very well start there given the alternative options are players from other positions. 

Week One: Juan Manuel Leguizamón
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
Week Eighteen: Juan José Imhoff
Week Nineteen: Alvaro Galindo
Week Twenty: Maximilano Bustos
Week Twenty-One: Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga
Week Twenty-Two: Julio Farías Cabello

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