Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Essence of Argentine Rugby

2013, like all new years, represents a new beginning. The planets leading players left the international arena in November or December to return to club duty wherever that may be and do so with an eye to the following year. For some it means a short turnaround before the next chance of playing in national colors. In the case of Europe there will be a host of nations in action in February battling it out in Rugby World Cup Qualification matches while the regions Tier One nations will compete in the Six Nations. Others will return to international duty latter with the Asian Five Nations in April, CONSUR A will be in May and the FORU Oceania Cup in June. Traditional international tours will also take place in June with Argentina playing host to two incoming nations while Canada and the USA are soon to be confirmed in a new and exciting Pacific Nations Cup which could be rebranded the Pacific Five Nations with Canada, Fiji, Japan, Tonga and the USA all participating. 

For Argentina the year will have a similar feel to it as 2012. It will see emerging domestic based players play for Los Jaguares while the June matches against England and Georgia will see a combination of the leading Los Pampas XV players and European based players form an Argentine side with an eye to the future. In 2012 a number of players such as Martín Landajo, Tomás Leonardí, Manuel Montero and Joaquín Tuculet impressed and went on to feature in The Rugby Championship or the November tour of Europe. The year will be identical from this perspective but   it will be different in that there will be no focus on the IRB World Rankings and, instead, a tremendous focus on 2015. Argentina knows it will face New Zealand and Tonga in England 2015 and has already started its preperations for these two particular matches. It will also face Europe 1, quite possibly Georgia, and Africa 1, quite possible Namibia. 

While the major focus will be on The Rugby Championship due to its prestige the June and November test matches will be equally important for Argentina to execute a plan for Rugby World Cup 2015. There are question marks over whether or not a number of veteran players will still be around in 2015. Key players from 2011 and 2012 including Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza, Gonzalo Camacho, Manuel Carizza, Julío Farías Cabello, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Eusebio Guiñazú, Juan Martín Hernández, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Nicolás Vergallo, are going to be 31 or older in 2015.   Some will not be there come 2015, others will. The clearing out will be stepped up in 2013. Captain Corcho Fernández Lobbe is already 31 but is showing very good signs and the smart money is that he will still be leading Argentina onto the field come England 2015. In all likelihood most of the other veterans mentioned above will still be there but alternatives need to be found and in some cases they already have been.

Juan Figallo to be vital for
the future
The veteran frontrow has been cleared out with Juan Figallo aged 24 now spearheading the scrum. He is already regarded as one of the leading props in France and come 2015 he could well be considered the premier tighthead prop in international rugby. He is likely to be joined by Marcos Ayerza who replaces Rodrigo Roncero after having been his deputy since 2006. Roncero was a widely respected rugby player who represented the essence of Argentine rugby. He passed on the torch to the likes of Figallo and Ayerza who now need to build a solid platform in time for 2015. They have some talented players around them and there is depth emerging in the form of Nahuel Lobo, Maximilano Bustos and Francisco Gómez Kodela. Combined these five offer Argentina with good options up front and the same players all stand strong chances of being a part of the squad for England 2015. At 35 years of age Roncero proved to be a very good player in the inaugural Rugby Championship and was singled out as carrying the traditions or the essence of Argentine rugby. The following video offers insight into jsut what is the essence of Argentine rugby and is highly recommended.

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