Monday, October 8, 2012

10 Suggestions for Phelan for November

Tomás De La Vega unused in
The Rugby Championship
The Rugby Championship may well be completed but the international season is far from over. Argentina has three test matches coming up next month as Los Pumas will face Wales, France and Ireland in Europe. The tour will be different to all previous Pumas tours in the professional era because this time Argentina is playing after its players had spent a long time together competiting against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It means that Los Pumas will be better prepared than previously and should be playing a more advanced brand of rugby that could potentially see Argentina score more tries and strive to win all three matches. 

For this to happen Argentina need to makes some changes from The Rugby Championship. Phelan essentually utilized the same starting XV throughout the competition. Some changes were made but not many. The same two wingers started every match as did both centres. The same tight-five started every match and two of the three backrowers also started all six games. The changes were at fullback, flyhalf, scrumhalf and openside flanker. One change will be required at loosehead prop now that Rodrigo Roncero has hund up his boots. But in the greater interests of Argentina being able to finish off opportunities and win more big matches there needs to be more. It is common for Pumas coaches to experiment with some players in November internationals and this will continue next month. 

Ten suggestions for Phelan

1. Rodrigo Roncero has retired and will be missed but in Marcos Ayerza Argentina have one of the best loosehead prop´s around and he has not recieved much game time throughout the Phelan era. Followers of the Leicester Tigers and the Aviva Premiership know just how good he is.

2. Juan Figallo needs a solid replacement. Figallo can play on both sides of the scrum but has been utilized by Phelan as a tighthead prop. Juan Pablo Orlandi was the replacement tighthead prop throughout The Rugby Championship. He got some good game time and should be retained for the European tour. Maximilano Bustos was released after the Oceanian tour and is yet to make his Pumas debut. Phelan ought to select either him of Francisco Goméz Kodela of Biarritz but needs to give whoever it is game time.

3. Agustín Creevy is the leading Argentine hooker and is a superior athlete to Eusebio Guinãzú who started all six matches in The Rugby Championship. Guinãzú started following a rib injury to Creevy in a warm-up match against Stade Français. Creevy is a dynamic player who covers a lot more ground and needs to be given the confidence so he can transform his form from Montpellier onto the international stage.

4. Julio Farías Cabello had a solid series but he is 34 years old. Argentina have a player more than ten years younger who did not play at all in The Rugby Championship despite playing very well in Córdoba v France. Tomás De La Vega is an exciting prospect. The 21 year old should start this November to form a starting back-row combination with Juan Manuel Leguizamón and captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe.

5. The combination of Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza was highly effective throughout The Rugby Championship. They are both superb athletes but there is an unanswered question as to who are the two players next in line. Mariano Galarza was the deputy at Rugby World Cup 2011 but has missed out on game time in 2012 due to injury. Phelan had Tomás Vallejos Cinalli as the replacement in The Rugby Championship but he only played once - against New Zealand in La Plata. In all other matches Phelan selected two backrowers on the bench. He should go for a specialist secondrower for all three European tests. Vallejos Cinalli is the frontrunner but there should be a second player. Phelan could go for Esteban Lozada or he could look more to the future and select Juan Cruz Guillemaín who played for Argentina at this years IRB Junior World Cup in South Africa and has been singled out as a future Puma.

6. Juan Imhoff is Argentina´s starting left winger. Horacio Agulla´s future is as an outside centre. Imhoff ought to start all three tests this November at 11 and Agulla used, at least once, at 13. Imhoff scored a try against Australia in Rosario and created one against the same team on the Gold Coast. In his first season in France he made headlines for his share abilities. He needs to be unleashed this November.

7. The decision to start Martín Lanadjo rather than Nicolás Vergallo worked as Argentina were better in terms of attack in the final three tests than the first three. Agustín Figuerola of Brive did nto feature at all and is likely to not be in the frame again. Vergallo could quickly be the third choice scrumhalf behind Landajo and Tomás Cubelli. 23 year old Cubelli ought to be in the squad and should be given an opportunity to start against either Wales or Ireland.

8. In terms of defence the Pumas centres were strong in The Rugby Championship. They were not perfect but they were highly effective. Marcelo Bosch was praised from Argentine media with former Pumas winger Diego Albanese particularly impressed. But he and Santi Fernández were not able to do quite enough on attack. Both are better players than they showed in the 2012 competition and together need to really deliver this November or else a replacement will be required. As stated in point 6 Agulla ought to be tried at 13, at least in one match.

9. A major theme throughout The Rugby Championship was goalkicking. Juan Martín Hernández was not as accurate as his opponents. Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga was also not reliable enough. Phelan, nonetheless, had two superior goalkickers but neither were used. Nicolás Sánchez started in the Mendoza test against South Africa and was a replacement against Australia in Rosario but he did not kick goals. Instead Marcelo Bosch was used in place of Hernández in Rosario and Rodríguez Gurruchaga in Mendoza. Rodríguez Gurruchaga is injured and will not play in the November internationals. Fit and avaliable is Martín Bustos Moyano who did not play at all despite being in the squad for the duration of The Rugby Championship. He ought to start on the right wing against Wales to open the tour and be covering fullback for Lucas González Amorosino. Gonzalo Camacho and Manuel Montero should be the other wingers.

10. Argentina need a solid bench. It was common throughout The Rugby Championship for the replacements to not have the same impact as the starting players. This occured despite some of the replacements actually doing better than the player who had been substituted. Phelan needs the replacements to fit in better to the game plan and also needs a replacement per position. He ought to select a traditional 22 featuring a replacement hooker, prop, secondrower, backrower, scrumhalf, flyhalf and outside back. To make this happen he needs to rotate his players more than he did in The Rugby Championship. 


  1. Some of the players mentioned such as Juan Pablo Orlandi, Francisco Gómez Kodela and Esteban Lozada aren't up to international level.

    Do you remember the scrum in June? It was poor.

    Orlandi and Gómez Kodela aren't that good scrummagers, Maximiliano Bustos is the best tighthead scrummaging option. But his problem is his high penalty count.

    I think Bustos should be preferred than the other two though.

    Regarding your point about the substitutes, in November the IRB is switching to 23 man squads with two props on the bench, so I think you should alter that point.

    Phelan has proved highly conservative with his selections, many of these ideas you have been proposing for a long time. But Phelan doesn't like changing the team much at all, or selecting the best attackers like Imhoff.

    Because of this, although I agree with most of your ideas, going on past form I doubt Phelan will change much. Phelan is coaching the side not to get thrashed and is tricky to beat, but he is not coaching a side able to win.

    Loffreda beat all the 6 Nations sides in November away from home apart from Ireland (who were comfortably beaten in the RWC), whilst Phelan has only beaten Scotland and Italy away from home in November.

    I think Phelan seems to have avoided a lot of criticism during his reign, but I think if November is unsuccessful questions need to be asked. The Pumas can't just be happy at not getting thrashed, they need some ambition and in my opinion 2 wins minimum is required in November.

    For November I would select:

    1. Ayerza
    2. Creevy
    3. Figallo
    4. Carizza
    5. Albacete
    6. Leonardi
    7. Leguizamón
    8. Fernández Lobbe
    9. Cubelli
    10. Sanchez/Mieres
    11. Imhoff
    12. Bosch
    13. Agulla
    14. Camacho/Amorosino
    15. Hernández

    16. Guiñazu
    17. ?
    18. Bustos
    19. Farías Cabello
    20. Leonardi
    21. Landajo
    22. Sanchez/Mieres
    23. Amorosino/Montero

    1. Well spotted. The changed law regarding substitutions will change everything.

      Hopefully Phelan does make soem changes. Some players were really over played in The Rugby Championship and others underplayed.