Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Rugby Championship Players to Watch - Nicolás Sánchez

One of the lesser known players in the thirty-four man squad for The Rugby Championship is 23 year old flyhalf Federico Nicolás Sánchez. He comes from the rugby heartland province of Tucumán and despite not being a household name he is an accomplished player who plays as a professional in the French Top 14. Sánchez plays for Bordeaux-Begles, his first professional team. He signed for the South-western French side after having played a significant part in Los Pampas XV´ 2011 Vodacom Cup campaign which the Argentina won. Sánchez was initially signed on a one year contract with the club but in Feburary he signed a contract extention for two more years. The new contract was interesting was the club was eager to hang on to him despite his injury which severely limited his game time for the club in thje 2011-2012 season. In January he fractured his fibula playing in an Amlin Challenge Cup match against Bayonne. It was a season ending injury as despite recoving for the final rounds of the Top 14 season he did not play again. 

Sánchez´ inclusion in the Pumas squad raised a few eye-brows as he was selected ahead of Ignacio Mieres who was one of Argentina´ best performers in the 2011-2012 European club season.  Mieres´ form saw him earn a test call up for the June internationals and he featured in the first two matches, starting both at flyhalf with Argentina defeating Italy and France. He played well but was picked to allow the other European based inside backs time to rest in preperation for the Rugby Championship. As good as a season that he had, Mieres was, nevertheless, overlooked due to his position. He is a flyhalf specialist, a position that Argentina presently have a lot of depth in. Sánchez, like Mieres, is a flyhalf but in contrast to the Exeter Chiefs playmaker Sánchez is also an inside centre. This, ultimately, explains his selection as Sánchez is in the squad to provide options for both 10 and 12. Despite Felipe Contepomi not participating in The Rugby Championship Los Pumas still have four flyhalves in the squad - Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernández, Juan Martín Hernández and Nicolás Sánchez. All four , like Contepomi, play in France and all have been used in different positions for Argentina. Bosch was Argentina´ World Cup 13 after Gonzalo Tiesi was ruled out of the World Cup during the opening match vs England. Fernández played at both 10 and 12 in the tournament and Hernández was Los Pumas´ 15 from 2004-2006 before moving fulltime to 10 in 2007.  Sánchez has one thing that none of these players have - a reliable boot. He is probably Argentina´s second best goalkicker after Martín Bustos Moyano. 

Sánchez made his international debut in 2010 against Uruguay in Santiago del Chile as a replacement. The match was part of the South American Championship involving Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. He was named to start for the first time in the match against Chile and he played at inside centre, scoring a try. He formed a 10-12 combination with Mieres who played flyhalf against both Uruguay and Chile. The two players were fringe Pumas players with both in contention for a place at Rugby World Cup 2011 depending on how they played in the remainder of 2010 and in 2011. Sánchez was the one selected following a vacant spot becoming avaliable due to the season ending injury of Juan Martín Hernández. He earned his call up following an impressive campaign with Los Pampas XV in South Africa´ Vodacom Cup. Sánchez was the teams first choice flyhalf and played a major role in the sides championship winning season which saw the team go undefeated. Sánchez was a product of the PladAR system which assisted his development significantly. His selection for Rugby World Cup 2011 saw him play in one of the five matches. He was a second half replacement against Romania in the teams second match. 

Sánchez at flyhalf in 2011 Vodacom Cup Final
Week 03: Marcelo Bosch
Week 04: Agustín Creevy
Week 08: Rodrigo Roncero
Week 09: Gonzalo Camacho
Week 11: Horacio Agulla
Week 12: Juan Figallo
Week 14: Tomás Cubelli 
Week 15: Marcos Ayerza
Week 16: Manuel Carizza
Week 19: Alvaro Galindo
Week 25: Nicolás Sánchez
Week 26: Manuel Montero

1 comment:

  1. Very well article Paul...Thanks. Néstor