Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tomás Vallejos to play in Japan

Tomás Vallejos will play in Japan
with the Coca Cola West Red Sparks
The 28 year old Pumas lock Tomás Vallejos currently playing with the Pampas XV in the Vodacom Cup after a stint with the Scarlets in Wales, has signed with the Coca Cola West Red Sparks next season.

The lock from Rosario will now play in his fourth country since leaving Argentina to play for Overmach Parma in 2007. Vallejos has not followed the typical Argentine route of finding a club in France in his career, but rather started out in the Eccelenza in Italy before signing for Harlequins in 2010 as mid season injury cover. It was at Harlequins where he managed to work his way into the Argentina national team set up before the 2011 Rugby World Cup and he has remained in the Pumas setup ever since through to the Rugby Championship last year where he played in La Plata off the bench against the All Blacks.

Vallejos was on the bench for the Harelquins in the 2012 Aviva Premiership Final but due to his commitments with Argentina he would not continue with the English champions and instead signed for the Llanelli based Scarlets where he mae his debut on October 26 2012 against Edinburgh, playing 75 minutes. He would play in three other matches for the Scarlets before making a decision to link up with the Daniel Hourcade coached Pampas XV squad for the 2013 Vodacom Cup. The move saw him debut for the Argentine team in the first round in a secondrow combination with Mariano Galarza. Both Vallejos and Galarza are Pumas squad members and were a part of the squad for Rugby World Cup 2011. At the tournament Vallejos debuted against Georgia. The pair are currently back-up´s to the regulars of Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza and Julio Farías Cabello, while Stade Français´ youngster, Juan Cruz Guillemain may be set to be called up to the test side this year.

After the Vodacom Cup Vallejos will join up with the promoted Coca Cola West Red Sparks and become the second Argentine to play in the Top League. Some years ago backrower Federico Boffi of La Plata RC played there while studying to become a doctor. At the West Sparks, Vallejos will play alongside some big name players including Samoan internationals Jonny Fa'amatuainu and the controversial Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.

The move to Japan is an interesting one, and with Argentines now much less popular signings for French teams with the likes of Montpellier who had numerous Argentines now getting rid, Vallejos may not be the last Argentine to play in Japan. There are clear inconveniences now for Argentines to play in Europe with the Rugby Championship lasting up until early October. Whilst previously a side like Montpellier would just be missing their Argentines for one month of the season in November.

The ideal tournament for Argentines to play is Super Rugby, with the domestic schedule suited to the one that the Argentina national team now play. But contracts there are hard to come by with relatively few foreigners in the tournament compared to Europe.

Meanwhile, Japan has much more foreigners in the Top League and unlike Europe their season fits better with the international schedule of Argentina and also offers lucrative pay which has attracted some of the world's best players such as Jerome Kaino, Sonny Bill Williams and Fourie du Preez to give up their international careers to play there. It is also possible for a player to play most of a season in the Top League and then play a full season in the Vodacom Cup with the Pampas XV.

So if an Argentine joins a Japanese team, they should be able to feature in every Pumas match of the year and not have to miss matches and choose between club and country and also get well paid and well rested. The convenience of Japan is clear, and Vallejos may not be the last Puma to play there with one other possibility being Patricio Albacete. The Toulouse veteran has previously said he would like to play in Japan one day.


  1. this is good to hear, seeing as how I live in Japan. The standard of rugby over here, though good to watch, isn't great. probably less intense than the urba top 14,
    When do you think Argentina will get it's own pro/semi pro league?
    with a change of comp to currie cup, the now vodocom cup slot is where an Argentine pro league could fit in!

  2. Indded, the Argentine team, Los Pampas, is in line to play in the 2014 Currie Cup rather than the Vodacom Cup. It would be in the competition´s division 2 but with a possibility to rise.

    An Argentine pro comp need not happen. Australia does not have one. Argentina can play in Super Rugby. Starting with one team in Buenos Aires and, overtime, looking to have additional sides in cities including Tucumán, Rosario and Córdoba.

  3. Now having five teams, Super Rugby is infact a defacto national champs for Australia. The fact Australia hasn't had a national championship is minus for Australia as it's meant they've never had the depth (witness the ever growing number of expat Kiwis playing in their Super teams) that NZ or RSA have had. If they did, it's likely Australia would be as twice as strong as it is now. I don't think Argentina should be looking to emulate Australia.

    About time a Japanese team has picked an Argentine player. Money has never been an issue with Japanese teams. They could easily afford to compete with the French clubs if they wanted to for Argentinian players but for some unknown reason despite Argentina's continuing success they've preferred to stick with Pacific island & Aussie or NZ players.

    I sense clubs in Japan are starting to think outside the box a bit more as several have now contracted RSA players when only a couple of years ago RSA players were unheard of in Japan.

    Of course the problem may also have been that Argentinian players turned down offers to play in Japan because they felt the play was too inferior compared to the French Top14. Though I would be surprised if that was the case when SANZAR players have had no problems accepting to play in a lower standard league.

    Anyway the league is not that inferior anymore with a lot of excellent players in it and I'm sure the top teams are as good as the bottom of the Euro pro leagues at least (I remember Newcastle when they still boasted Wilkinson and Flood losing to Toyota Verblitz in Nagoya, helped by a slightly biased Japanese ref of course!). The Eddie Jones' coached Suntory famously (maybe you can put in your Friday retro section one day) became the only Japanese team to beat Wales thus far when they last
    toured Japan.

    Anyway, I can say as in the article it would be good for Argentinian players international availability to be playing for Japanese clubs so hopefully Vallejos is not the last.

    Lastly, don't expect Japanese teams to offer contracts for front rowers. Despite the national team struggling in the scrums v Romania and Georgia last year, the TL clubs for some reason seem to think it is a position of strength in Japanese rugby and they don't need foreigners in the front row positions. There has only ever been one front row TL player that I know of. Ironically, he was an Australian!

  4. Talking about it taking so long for Argentinian players to get a look in with Japanese clubs, I'd like to say I'm surprised as well that the Rebels who are part privately funded haven't contracted a couple of Argentinian players.

    And talking of Argentina and super rugby and Asia, here's another idea that I doubt many Argentinian rugby followers have probably even considered.

    It's well known that Japan is also keen to have Super rugby teams. But I have always thought that apart from Japan if Super Rugby went to North Asia, then Hong Kong would be an ideal location for a Super rugby franchise to help give it pro players and further develop the rugby there as there is a big enough market, very possible large corporate sponsorshop options for such a team (meaning good level of salaries offered) and location and travel-wise it's a main hub for airlines so lots of routes going into and out of it. A Hong Kong-based mixed non-Japanese Asian and Argentinian player Super team (or even for starters a Hong Kong based TL team), would be a great avenue to get a decent core of Argentinian players involved with Super rugby while helping asian rugby at the same time.

    The UAR could do worse than talking directly with the HKRFU and seeing if together they can create a HK-based franchise in TL and Super rugby that would have many positives for both.

  5. I partly agree in what your saying Simon regarding spreading players around more finacially lucrative areas. However, what about Argentina itself. There aren't too many professional rugby playing areas for many to ply there trade.
    I mentioned a pro league in Argentina, as not an ends to a means for just Argentina but for the americas as a whole.

    Japan is the only place where elite players can have a run out other than super rugby, the currie cup (hernandez, etc) and western Europe.
    I think a pro league in Argentina could attract players from all over the Americas, and thus trully kick start super rugby in that region.

    Finance is the major concern, of course. But when one looks at the USA and Canada, they are not in position to use their rugby infrastructure to create this!

    The IRB and others within the Americas need to put up a marker or rather an area where this can all happen.

    Argentina regularly sends 2nd, 3rd or 4th teams to the south American champs and this is not being done by other big shot nations in their perspective areas!

    Australia as you said isn't the best example to follow, and I sense that their two WC victories where in and out of true professioalism. I'm not saying that they will never win the WC again, but they'll have to become like the pragmatical English side (2000-2003), to do it.

    Anyway, I think that it would be good if Argentina developed it's own league around it's own identity of rugby, you know, no nonsense break neck forward play with a bit of flair thrown in. Remember that try in the qtf against the ABs. Classic. And you can see many a try like that created out of tight play in the URBA 14 and the interior!
    The whole of the Americas would learn, and as they say on the streets of the USA....get paid!

  6. Yeah, It'd be great if Argentina had it's own pro league sometime in the future and that's my wish. I guess the reason I didn't mention it was the whole finance question. Does Argentina have the economic capability to run a whole league at this point? Maybe one or two super teams is a possibility as that's less players to support than a whole league.

    If Argentina gets a Super team I certainly hope it is a condition that say 7-8 members of the squad are non-Argentinian, so there are opportunities for other players in the Americas to play Super rugby. It'd be a real shot in the arm for Brazilian rugby etc to have a super rugby player. Eg I'd like to see Pablo Huete etc play in an Argentinian Super rugby team. That's why if it happens it's important the team is like the Rebels partially private (even the NZRFU is slowly going down the route to create more capital for its super teams) as a 100% UAR financed team will of course not be interested in including and developing non-Argentinian players which is understandable.

    The thing that worries me about an Argentina-based Super rugby team is the location. The RC isn't too bad as there's not too many games. But Super rugby is already a long season and I can see many super teams opposed to travelling to BA for one game.

    Whereas location-wise Asia is in a good position because Japan/HK/Singapore/KL aren't too far away from NZ and Australia, have good air links, have the financial capacity to run teams and with 3-4 Asian teams the other Super teams wouldn't be going for just one game but a mini tour like they do now to the other current countries involved. I don't want to be horrible but I suspect if Super rugby expands it will be to North Asia first.

    If an Argentinian franchise is created it may well be RSA-based which is really less than optimal. It would be hard for Argentinian fans to support when the team would never or almost never play in Argentina. And Super rugby is different from the Pampas XV operation. That's to develop players. Whereas super rugby is an elite, commercial operation. So your point about finance is probably the most important point in your post. It's not about whether Argentina has the players to support a super team. it's whether adding a team in Argentina is economical sense for the other super teams (travel bills, player welfare etc etc).

  7. One possibility for Argentinian Super teams would be to break up Super rugby. Ie RSA and Argentinian team only playing amongst themselves in the regular season. The same with NZ, Aussie and any Asian teams. Then the top teams from the two regions progressing to the playoff rounds v each other (maybe QF, semis and final). That would cut down on travel for all teams (cutting travel bills as well). Whether it would also cut down too much on TV and other revenue without regular season RSA-NZ/RSA-AUS matches would be the big question.