A move from the Aviva Premiership Champions to France´s second division would seem to be a step in the wrong direction for any professional athlete. But for 26 year old Argentine flyhalf Benjamín Urdapilleta the move may well have been a stroke of genius. Urdapilleta played fot he Harlequins in 2011 and 2012 and got some game time, usually as a centre. In search for more game time he took up an offer to play for Oyonnax in the pro d2, a move that has seen him not only get much more game time but be able to perform better.
The club is from a small town near the Swiss border but is not one short on ambition. It is leading the competition and is now looking like odds on favorites to finish the regular season in first position and therefore win direct promotion to the Top 14. It hosted and defeated Tarbes this past weekend with Urdapilleta playing flyhalf. The Argentine scored the teams first try and also kicked five points late in the match. His kicks proved to be the difference as Oyonnax won the match 21-18. The result sees Oyonnax now have 73 points which is four wins more (discounting bonus points) than the second placed Aurillac. Tarbes is now two points outside of the Semi Finals.
Urdapilleta has played in all 18 of the clubs Pro d2 matches this season, starting 17 of them at flyhalf. He has not been the teams regular goalkicker but has, nonetheless, scored over one hundred points for far this season. He played one test for Argentina in 2012, the heavy loss against France in Tucumán. He was one of two flyhalves in the depleated Pumas squad for the June internationals. With Argentina not selecting players who would play in the Rugby Championship the squad instead had Urdapilleta and Ignacio Mieres of the Exeter Chiefs. Mieres had a superb 2011-2012 season and deserved his starts against Italy in San Juan and France in Córdoba. In the current season, however, he has been firmly overtaken by Gareth Steenson and the Irishman is showing no signs of losing the Chiefs 10 shirt this season.
Urdapilleta is therefore a serious contender for the June 2013 internationals. The UAR is yet to finalize the matches or venues though it is known that England will play two tests followed by Georgia playing one. Urdapilleta looms as the obvious choice for flyhalf against Georgia and on form is likely to be selected ahead of Mieres.