Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pumas Clean-out for 2013?

Photo: UAR Pro Focus
Leonardí & Mieres should play in June 2013
The draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 is already known and preperation for the tournament will step up significantly in 2013. The year should see a number of international retirements as players look to pass on the torch to younger players who have a far greater chance of being well prepared to impress in England 2015. It is as true for Argentine players as it is for any others. There are a number of senior players whose participation in England 2015 is far from guaranteed. Of the 59 players who Santiago Phelan used to face Australia, Ireland, Italy, France, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales in 2012 only one is certain to not be playing in England 2015 - Rodrigo Roncero. His retirement sees Marcos Ayerza replace him as the starting loosehead prop but even his place should be be considered as a formality. 

Ayerza is an example of a player who has been around for a very long time. He has played in two World Cup´s and will be 32 in 2015. Roncero was older at Rugby World Cup 2011 as was Martín Scelzo but, interestingly, Scelzo lost his starting place to Juan Figallo in 2011. This past weekend saw Ayerza started for Leicester against Bath after he had previously been used mainly from the bench before the November Internationals. Similar to Scelzo, Ayerza´s place could be taken by a young Pumas prop. Nahuel Lobo of Montpellier could very well develop to start test matches and should start in 2013. Other options include the strong possibility of Maximilano Bustos or Francisco Gómez Kodela starting at tighthead and Juan Figallo moving to loosehead, where he plays in France. The June Internationals are a very long way away for now but it is fundamental that the right players are those who play. Lobo is on a short-term contract with Montpellier and should he return to play for Los Pampas XV then he would be the ideal player to start against Georgia and England so that Ayerza can rest for the Rugby Championship. The agreement between the UAR and European clubs means whoever plays in June will not play in The Rugby Championship. This should see Juan Pablo Orlandi starting at tighthead rather than Francisco Gómez Kodela.

The hooker position is an easier scenario with the care-taker hooker Eusebio Guiñazú not likely to start for Argentina next year. While he has gone on to be sigend for Bath in the Aviva Premiership, Guiñazú was called up to replace the then injured Agustín Creevy and to offer experience in the void left from the departing Mario Ledesma. He will likely remain in the squad in 2013 but very much as back-up to not only Creevy but also Bruno Postiglioni of Los Pampas XV. Guiñazú will be 33 years old come Rugby World Cup 2015. The 2013 Vodacom Cup will be key to solving the puzzle of hooker for Argentina. Creevy needs a solid deputy and there is a need for a player to step up. Postiglioni needs a strong season and Argentina also need another player for the position to impress for Los Pampas XV. Emiliano Corea is likely to be given opportunities.

The secondrow position sees older players with Patricio Albacete and Julio Farías Cabello. Albacete will be 34 in 2015 but his form remains exceptional and he is very likely to still be starting for both Toulouse and Argentina. Fatrías Cabello, in contrast, is already 34 and will certainly not play in England 2015. He should well be replaced and Argentina has a number of possibilities. Manuel Carizza will be 31 as will Tomás Vallejos Cinalli while Esteban Lozada will be 33. All three will likely play in 2013 and quite possibly in June with the four secondrowers for The Rugby Championship likely to be Albacete, Carizza, Mariano Galarza and Juan Cruz Guillemain. The same four is also a realistic quartet to feature at England 2015. It is a well structured group with Guillemain very much being in the frame of Albacete and Galarza being an under study to Carizza. Galarza missed out on international duty after undergoing surgery and was badly missed in June 2012. Carizza could well form a partnership with him in June 20123 should his stay at Racing Métro be short.

Real changes have begun in the backrow with Alvaro Galindo having been overtaken by three Argentine based players - Tomás Leonardí, Leonardo Senatore and Tomás De La Vega. Together the four should be those featuring for Los Pumas in the June Internationals while Juan Manuel Leguizamón and captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe will be rested. A starting lineup featuring Leonardí at 6, Senatore at 8 and De La Vega at 7 is highly plausible for the June Internationals. It is also a combination that could well last. Leonardí at 25 and De La Vega at 22 are very much strong candidates to be starting for Argentina at Rugby World Cup 2015. Senatore will be 31, Leguizamón 32 and Fernández Lobbe 34 all still appropriate ages but with Leonardí to play Super Rugby and the potential of De La Vega yet to be fully utilized they will need to continue performing.

Argentina will be missing key players in June 2013 but the impact will be smaller than in 2013 due to the return of some players from Europe and the development of others through the PladAR system. The scrumhalf position will be unique in that Argentina will have the full use of its three leading players in this position. Nicolás Vergallo lost his starting position in Los Pumas to Martín Landajo during The Rugby Championship after Landajo had impressed against Italy and France in June. Both players will be under threat from 23 year old Tomás Cubelli who is very much looking like having the making of being Argentina´s starting scrumhalf at Rugby World Cup 2015. Vergallo will have an ideal chance to win back the #9 shirt as he wil be playing Super Rugby for the Southern Kings. With all three avaliable for international duty throughout the year of 2013 the picture will become much clearer.

Nicolás Sánchez impressed in November at flyhalf in place of Juan Martín Hernández who was moved to fullback. This is looking like a probable combination for the foreseeable future. Neither player, however will feature in the June Internationals and Argentina is also likely to be without two other fullbacks - Joaquín Tuculet and Lucas González Amorosino. Both are highly likely to be in the squad for The Rugby Championship and will therefore not be selected for June. Ignacio Mieres will likely be the starting flyhalf as he was in 2012 with support to be provided from others based in Europe, including players who featured in the 2012 Rugby Championship. Santiago Fernández could well be another to feature in June as others would appear to now be preferred to him at flyhalf and inside centre.

With no Hernández, González Amorosino or Tuculet the fullback position is likely to be given to the highly talented and uncapped 18 year old Santiago Cordero who impressed significantly for Los Pumitas and the Argentine Sevens team in 2012. Similar to Santiago Fernández, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga is a player who could miss out on a place in The Rugby Championship. Tuculet looks to have established himself in the senior squad while the move of Hernández back to fullback means Rodríguez Gurruchaga´s best opportunity would be as an inside centre and he would therefore be in competition with Fernández. One of the two is likely to miss out on a place in The Rugby Championship, possibly Fernández. Marcelo Bosch is quite likely going to be moved to inside centre which will further increase the chances of Fernández playing centre for Argentina in June.

Should Bosch move to inside centre then the outside centre position will go to one of two players - Gonzalo Tiesi or Horacio Agulla. Tiesi will be available for the June Internationals and this will be a huge bonus for Argentina as it will enable the development of other players, Manuel Montero in particular. 21 year old Montero is a different type of player for Argentina. He is a big winger. He has the speed but also the size to be an Argentine version of Aurélien Rougerie. Despite his age and position Montero already weighs 100KG and at 1.94m he is a player who brings much potential. He could very well form a back-three with Cordero and Martín Bustos Moyano. Despite having been a part of the squad for The Rugby Championship, Bustos Moyano did not play at all and his only cap came in 2008 against Chile. He remains in the Pumas frame but is behind the likes of Juan Imhoff, Gonzalo Camacho, Horacio Agulla, Manuel Montero and also faces competition from fullbacks in the squad who can play wing. June nonetheless looms as a key moment in his career and should he be selected he will be the goalkicker.

Potential Pumas Lineup for June  
Nahuel Lobo, 2 Bruno Postiglioni, 3 Juan Orlandi
(Montpellier, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG) (Racing Métro, FRA)
Tomás Vallejos, 5 Mariano Galarza
(Scarlets, WAL), (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
Tomás Leonardí, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomás De La Vega
(Southern Kings, RSA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Los Pampas XV, ARG)

Tomás Cubelli, 10 Ignacio Mieres

(Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)
12 Santiago Fernández, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi
(Montpellier, FRA), (SIC, ARG)
11 Manuel Montero, 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Martín Bustos Moyano
(Los Pampas XV), (Regatas Bella Vista, ARG), (Montpellier, FRA)

In playing in June none of the European based players would play in The Rugby Championship. The number of missing players would be fewer than that of 2012 when Argentina took on Italy and France without twenty-four European based players. There would still be players missing but fewer. As such Argentina should have a stronger team for the 2013 June Internationals in comparison to what was fielded in June 2012. 

1 comment:

  1. Gonzalo Tiesi play in London Welsh