Friday, December 21, 2012

Retro Friday - Federico Ninja Todeschini v The Lions

The wonder-kicker, Ninja Todeschini

When the combination of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales took on an Argentine team missing 26 frontline players in May 2005 there was only one possible scenario - a heavy defeat for the South Americans. The British and Irish Lions were using the match as a training run ahead of a three test tour of New Zealand and Argentina was considered a good team to face. But due to the match not being played in June coach Marcelo Loffreda was unable to field anywhere near the best Pumas team. Some players were released but many more were not. A number of players were playing in the Heineken Cup Final at Murrayfield on the same day. Argentina was a struggling rugby nation - no doors were opening in either the Six Nations or Tri Nations tournaments. As such the UAR accepted the offer to face the British and Irish Lions and the match turned out to be a huge success even though Argentina was not victorious. The 25-25 draw went down in history as much for the outcome as for the impact. The cries for better treatment from First Tier unions now needed to be addressed. 

At the heart of the result was goalkicking. Both teams scored one try each and the rival flyhalves each slotted 20 points. Rugby World Cup 2003 Champion Jonny Wilkinson was impressive as was the unknown Federico Todeschini. Known to his teammates as Ninja, Todeschini proved to be a worthy replacement and would go on to be Argentina´s first choice flyhalf throughout 2005 and 2006. He started against the Lions after having earned his a test recall one month earlier against Japan. He scored 19 points against Japan in what was his first test match since 1998. It eased the pressure on Loffreda who would be able to name Todeschini at flyhalf against the Lions. His 20 points at the Millennium Stadium saw him land difficult chances from both sides of the posts. It saw him become Argentina´s wonder-kicker, with him going on to kick Argentina to victory against England 18 months latter at Twickenham. 

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