Monday, October 22, 2012

Sánchez or Mieres?

Who should be back up to Juan Martín Hernández this November? It is a central question which will be addressed shortly as Los Pumas headcoach Santiago Phelan names his squad for the November tour of Europe in which Argentina will face Wales, France and Ireland. Both Nicolás Sánchez and Ignacio Mieres have started tests for Argentina this year and have started matches for their European clubs this season. There will be a place for one of them in the Pumas squad but there is little chance that both will be selected. Phelan is likely to name an orthodox bench featuring three backs with a scrumhalf, flyhalf and an outside back. The resources avaliable to Phelan arguably sugggest that Hernández will remain at flyhalf and not move to fullback. He will likely start all three matches and will be the goalkicker unless Phelan opts to select the avaliable 35 year old Felipe Contepomi or the unused Martín Bustos Moyano. As such the selection of Sánchez or Mieres as Hernández´s deputy is not likely to be so influenced by goalkicking. 

Photo Sudoeste: Nicolás Sánchez
This past weekend Nicolás Sánchez started for Bordeaux-Begles for the first time this season. He put in a strong performance of running rugby in breaking the defensive line regularly. He also kicked well both at goal and in general play. He appeared to lack quality backs to combine with. Had he been surrounded by better backs it is likely that Bordeaux-Begles would have had a more successful night. Sánchez nevertheless impressed with the commentary praising him. He had previously only started once in the Top 14 after his debut season was ended early due to injury. So little has been seen of Sánchez that he remains quite an enigma.

Sánchez made his name playing in the 2011 Vodacom Cup. He was Los Pampas XV´s goalkicker and succeeded not only in scoring a lot of points but also got the back line functioning well. He went on to be selected in place of an injured Juan Martín Hernández for Rugby World Cup 2011 and made one appearance in the tournament, against Romania from the bench. It was his third test cap after he played against Uruguay and Chile in 2010. He added two more tests to his name in 2012 as he started against South Africa in the 16-16 draw in Mendoza and was a secondhalf replacement in the home loss against Australia in Rosario. His selection ahead of Mieres raised eyebrows as Mieres had come off quite an extraordinary season for the Exeter Chiefs. Having impressed in the Vodacom Cup Sánchez was signed to play for Bordeaux-Begles one a one year deal which he extended to three after the club resigned him earlier in 2012 when he was injured.

Nicolás Sánchez for Bordeaux-Begles

Photo Telegraph: Ignacio Mieres
Like Sánchez Ignacio Mieres is still very young. Mieres has been around for much longer though. He has had stints with the Leicester Tigers, Perpignan and Stade Français but was only able to establish himself after moving to England to join the newly promoted Exeter Chiefs in 2010. The move proved to be highly successful as Mieres received regular game time and contributed significantly to the teams results. Exeter qualified for the Heineken Cup for the first time with Mieres being the clubs leading points scorer. Since joining Exeter he has played 34 matches in the Aviva Premiership and scored 281 points. His move has been a success for the club and like Sánchez he was resigned in 2012 on a new two year deal. 

Mieres made his test debut in 2007 against Chile and made his second appearance at international level the following year against the same opposition. He was, however, very much an outsider and not considered having any real chance of making the test squad. He earned his third and fourth test caps in 2010 against Uruguay and Chile but was again selected more for experimental reasons than on merit itself. This changed, however in 2012 when he was selected for the June internationals against Italy and France. He started the first two matches with Argentina winning both. He was there due to the selection policy that saw 24 players rested ahead of The Rugby Championship but this was only part of the reason. His form for Exeter did merit international selection.

Ignacio Mieres for Exeter Chiefs

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