Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Agulla or Imhoff?

Photo: UAR - Juan Imhoff v Australia on the Gold Coast
One of the themes touched on regularly by both readers and editors of Rugby World Cup - Argentina 2023 was the selection of Horacio Agulla for the Pumas 11 shirt and, thus the non-selection of Juan Imhoff. Both players had good 2011-2012 seasons in Europe with Agulla playing right wing for the Leicester Tigers and Imhoff playing left wing for Racing Métro. On form both needed to be in the starting lineup for The Rugby Championship as did Gonzalo Camacho who was named Game Changer of the Season in the Aviva Premiership for his performances for the Exeter Chiefs. It was speculated back in May that Santiago Phelan may want to test out this possibility by playing Agulla at inside centre to enable a 14-11 combination of Camacho and Imhoff. It did not eventuate as Agulla was 11 for all six matches and Camacho was 14. 

The November internationals have seen different selections traditionally. In 2010, for instance Phelan started Lucas González Amorosino on the wing instead of Agulla. At Rugby World Cup 2011 Agulla started all matches with Imhoff getting game time off the bench in all matches except v Georgia when he started. Imhoff was a try scorer in that match and set up another. He also scored against Romania as a replacement. In The Rugby Championship he scored one v Australia in Rosario and set up another v Australia on the Gold Coast. He would appear to be the strongest finisher of all the Argentine backs. For running rugby to succeed it is logical that he starts matches for his country. Agulla and Camacho were the starting wingers at the World Cup but neither scored a try. Since then both have scored great tries but both are arguably in the starting lineup for their defense more than their attack. 

Who should start v Wales to open Los Pumas´ November tour?

Horacio Agulla Highlights

Juan Imhoff Highlights


  1. Paul....its not even a contest....Imhoff is a very good role player who is still learning how to play defence. No defence; no Puma. End of story.

    1. Ridiculous.

      In the entire Rugby Championship tournament starting every match, Agulla did nothing. Imhoff came on for three substitute appearances and helped create 2 tries. He also scored twice from the bench against Stade Français.

      Argentina needs to score points to win games, and when the goal kickers are missing and the backs don't score many tries then they are struggling.

      Also people need to realise what Phelan is currently doing isn't working. In away matches, Argentina have only beaten Scotland and Italy since 2008. And that is with Agulla, Camacho, Aramburu type non try scoring wingers, so there needs to be change.

      Wales would never drop Shane Williams who wasn't great at tackling, Argentina should never drop Imhoff.

  2. Argentina is not Wales. Shane Williams could not play for the PUMAS. And for sure, the Wallabie's Cooper could NEVER play for the PUMAS.

    And what is ridiculous is comparing a kick ass warrior like Agulla with a Puma pup like Imhoff. I encourage you to check out the second try of the All Blacks game in Argentina just to see what Agulla does on offense - not just tackles.

    and Paul....with all due write and comment a lot about argentine rugby without ever having even pulled on an argentine rugby club jersey....never mind a Pumas jersey.... you know little of substance about argentine rugby .... really.... PRACTICALLY NOTHING.... so let me explain a little....

    ....argentine amateur rugby is built on a belief system that we call "aguante" and that rests on the foundation of an understanding that we go to battle with less of everything than the opposition....except heart....we play with less rest....we play with less time together for training....we play with no regular competition....we play without a professional infrastructure and no money....hell....even today the Pumas don't have their own fields and performance center for training....we borrow the installations of CASI when we are in buenos aires.... of everthing except heart....this means we always take on superior firepower....but we still win....plenty....that's our tradition....just over 50% in Europe....enough to always be in the top ten and have even reached a third ranking of the world....a feat never managed by Wales, Ireland, or Scotland....and apparently we are good enough also to be invited into the most prestigious and most exclusive rugby tournament in the planet....a stage where recently none other but the All Blacks coach refered our defence as "best in the world".... i was saying know little of substance about argentine rugby .... really.... because you never played rugby in Argentina....PRACTICALLY NOTHING....but you like to write about it....but you don't know about "Aguante" or "Mistica Puma"....

    so its really kinda of ironic that you should think you understand better than our national coach.... who has played one or two games with the Pumas in the past.... what our team needs....

    So....lets review together : the Pumas are an elite rugby unit from South America whose training focuses not only on traditional rugby skills but also on its strong esprit de corps whose foundation rests on an amateur spirit of competition which is unique in the world....

    as they are always pitted against superior national teams with professional structures, this "Mistica Puma" is the solution to strengthen them enough to work as a team and defend like lions. Consequently, their training often focuses not only on how to stop superior teams from scoring, but due to a number of reasons i just illustrated - less of everything but heart- on making it extremely stressful psychologically for opposing teams to play they make mistakes from which we often find the try line....Agulla is an emblem of belief in this system....he personifies this spirit like few other players in the team....

    so now you know Paul....we don't have room for anyone that does not know how to tackle and read a game without the ball in hand....

    this, Paul, is our rugby tradition....argentine rugby.... not wales.... not australia.... certainly not brazilian.... but OVALADA ARGENTINA CARAJO !!!! ....and why even the team cook when he dreams of wearing our GLORIOOOOOOOSA CAMISETA PUMA....has to know how to tackle....cheers

    1. Imhoff hands down.

    2. There are set rules on how to play rugby but vastly different interpretations on how to play the game. This key difference has been crucial to Argentina´s changed game plan during The Rugby Championship. Argentina´s traditional game plan has been declared as expired by top Argentine officials including management and coaches. This has seen a radical change in philosophy with Los Pampas XV playing attacking rugby that does not mirror the stereotypical game.

      Comments from officials, coaches and even players unlerline this attitude and Argentina got Graham Henry on board to try to transfer this change onto the international stage. It is an acknowledgement that the traditional Pumas game plan is not sustainable in an era in which scoring tries is paramount. As such there is a serious question to answer - Agulla or Imhoff?

      Nobody is questioning Agulla´s commitment or ability. He was a top performer for the Leicester Tigers. He was in the team of the year and was voted Leicester player of the year. Already this season his loss has been seen in how Leicester have performed. He got 8 tries last season, many beautiful individual scores. He, however, failed to score any in The Rugby Championship and did not really threaten, unlike Imhoff and Camacho. This raises a separate question - does Phelan´s game plan work for the style of player that is Agulla?

      Incidently suggesting Agulla over Imhoff is a must based on defense does not make sense. I would suggest looking back at Phelan´s selections from 2008-2011 against Tier 1 opposition. You will see many players starting at wing who are not notable defenders. Some examples are as follows:

      Lucas Borges
      Mauro Comuzzi
      Federico Martín Aramburu
      Lucas González Amorosino

      Lastly, tackling can be taught and developed effectively. Lucas Borges was never a world class defender but he started the matches in France 2007.

      All people are different. Everyone has an opinion that deserves to be heard. But there is a central point to address given rugby´s specifications in positions. If a prop is great in lifting, tackling and as a ball carrier but cannot scrummage he will struggle. Key areas cannot be hidden. A winger needs to, by nature, be a solid finisher. I know many people with different views on rugby players but they all agree that is a winger is not a regular threat than he needs to be dropped or played elsewhere. The editors of this site firmly believe Agulla needs game time at 13.

    3. The old "you never played so your opinion is not valid" point. That is totally stupid.

      By your logic, you might as well rip up the contract of World Cup winning coach Graham Henry right now, as he didn't play top level rugby.

      There is nothing wrong with querying a coaches selection, when the Pumas side has been losing more than it has winning over Phelan's reign.


    its a little disengenous to talk about Phelan's win and loss record as you do when out of the last ten games none but two or three have been with the top three ranked teams in the world....and if we include France at number 5 with whom as you know well we split two games with an experimental side....well his record looks pretty damn good.... especially if one also considers how they blew away everyone's expectations in the 4Nations....

    two....i'm not saying at all that just because you have never played in argentina you are not entitled to an opinion that differs from someone who long as there is respect for the the work being done....and for the jersey colors....and for the truth....dissenting opinions that are constructive are always not just welcome but even necessary as part of the process that measures performance and looks to improve final outcomes....the priority is not any individual player or coach....but the TEAM....catequesis PUMA la concha de la lora !!!!! y dale alegria alegria a mi corazoooooon !!!!

    What I AM saying is that you don't know ANYTHING about Argentine rugby.... and one example that illustrates this fact to me more clearly than anything is not that somehow you insist in starting a developing player who has so far demonstrated not only that he has a great future.... no doubt....but that Imhoff is still clearly a liability on defence....(Imhoff's defence and his reads without the ball is woeful....easily the worst of the group of players you mention)....

    but even more to the also advocate sitting of all players Agulla ????....have you lost your mind ???? but like completely ????

    and then you make a compile of his rugby and omit his interception against France which was practically hablando the signature play of the tournament for us... and what defines him better than other instance of his on the field....????

    Agulla is a living playing legend in Argentine know this....i know you know this....thanks to him we won the innaugural game against France in the 2007 world cup....that interception was literally the definition of "critical mass" was not just this game against set the tone for the rest of the tournament too....we were about to be over run ....France was attacking on all cilinders....but Agulla changed everything in one fraction of a second....intercepting and brilliantly counter-attacking and offloading in perfect synchonicity to another immortal of PUMA lore....Corleto....

    seriously....without that play i dont think a third place in 2007 would have been possible....i dont think we would have won against France that day....

    and if we go into recent history at leicester....where he won more player awards than anyone on his you kidding me ????.... its not even close or something to even argue about....a veteran like that....Agulla....whom ive never seen taken down without at least three players hanging on him.... in the flower of his playing days....that's how i know we are not having an honest conversation....because you dont even like the Pumas....or Argentine rugby for that matter....

    there have been some GREAT games this year in our amateur 14 many of these have you played on your site....???? zilch .... nada....
    zero .... the thrashing of the jaguars against usa.... a cubelli masterpiece as director of the orchestra....did you play that game ????....not even a small clip .... again.... nada well just have to wait and see what you do about the final we just won against Candada....

    1. Hi,

      A lot of what you are responding to is to BEH and not myself.


      I´ll address what I see as being from what I posted.

      Re Agulla. You are talking about a game from 2007. That was five years ago, i.e. longer than the international careers of most players.

      He was fantastic for the Leicester Tigers last season. the club had him work effectively under a game plan that saw him able to put himself in space of link with play makers to get into space. The way Argentina played in the TRC, however, did not give him the same opportunities. As has been pointed out here and elsewhere Imhoff was able to enter and break the line, set up a try and score.

      The conclusion is that the way Argentina is playing this year is better for Imhoff than Agulla. This is without considering any different individual skills of the two players. Just, rather, looking at there on field performances in TRC.

      Imhoff does have defensive issues. This has long been known but he can improve as anyone can. Shane Williams, Bryan Habana, Jason Robinson Diego Albanese, Taku Ngwenya. All delivered at World Cup´s Can any defend well? I honestly don´t think so. But, should this be enough for any to not be selected?

      I do not believe in the perfect player or team. I believe in putting together the pieces and utilizing them to make a game plan that can bring in the required results. Argentina looked to Graham Henry for this and Los Pumas got more tries but also conceeded more than they should have.

      One could argue that Imhoff should not be in the team because of this:

      But, I doubt Williams, Habana, Robinson or Ngwenya could have stopped him. I think Agulla could have but am I looking for the best defender or something else? Santiago Phelan´s game plan in La Plata, Gold Coast and Rosario suggest he was looking for more than just solid defense from his backs.

      The common theme has been that Argentina wants to move away from limited rugby to playing a more expansive game. Who is better for this now and into the future Imhoff or Agulla? Forget the past and be honest.

      Nobody is questioning Agulla as a player or person. The debate is over whether or not he remains the best option for the Pumas 11 shirt. There are people questioning O´Driscoll for Ireland, Cooper for Australia, Trinh-Duc for France, Morrison for Scotland and so on. All players give it there all.

      Lastly this site is non-profit. It is not possible to cover anything. This is why the URBA Top 14 ahs not been covered. If you would like to cover it let me know. You are more than welcome to.

    2. You need to get real about Phelan's record as Pumas coach.

      Away from home in November, Argentina has only beaten Italy and Scotland (sides ranked below Argentina) under Phelan's charge. Compare that to Loffreda's record.

      At home, Phelan's side lost twice to Scotland in 2010, and also lost to both Italy and Scotland in 2008. Argentina should never lose to those sides at home.

      If you take into account that both England in 2009 was a weakened side which the Pumas still struggled to beat. Then the only wins in Phelan's reign over the top 4 sides of the 6 Nations or Tri Nations, was against France in 2010, and France in 2012 (which was a bizarre game which was a fluke victory).

      That's not that enough wins in his reign. It's alright to not be getting thrashed, but the Pumas need to start winning, and shouldn't be satisfied with just coming close.

      He was also saved by Amorosino in the RWC, and was lucky to defeat Scotland in that tournament with Contepomi offside for a charge down.

      People should be dissatisfied about wins being thrown away (such as England 2011, South Africa 2012, Australia 2012), rather than just happy to come close.

      Taking away Scotland and Italy and other Tier 2 nations, his record is 3 wins from 21 matches. Scotland have double the amount of wins against that opposition in the same period.

      That is not good enough, especially considering 2 of those wins they got were against weakened France and England sides.

      Secondly, is Agulla really a legend? Really?

      You can't deny that he contributed barely anything with the ball in hand this year, whilst Imhoff has created and scored a try despite not getting a start.

      Agulla is a decent player, but by the way you talk of him is like he's one of the top wingers in the world. Are you his agent or something?

      If he was as good as you are saying he is, then he would have scored more than 4 tries in 40 caps. Agulla has his own weaknesses too.

      Also wing is one position where defence is not be all and end all, many wingers haven't been the best defenders yet have been quality wingers. Like Shane Williams or Chris Ashton for example.

      Imhoff is by far the Pumas best try scoring winger, and with him on the field the Pumas are simply more likely to score tries.

      Thirdly, your attack on somebody's character is stupid. You say somebody knows nothing about Argentine rugby because they have a difference of opinion. This shows you are immature.

      He is not the only one who thinks that Imhoff should start anyway. Before the Rugby Championship, asked 5 Argentine players and 4 of them thought Imhoff should start.