Friday, May 3, 2013

Americas Tour - Events ahead of the weekend

Los Pampas XV will not be the Vodacom Cup Champions for 2013. The Argentine side was eliminated earlier today by the winner of the Northern Zone of the Vodacom Cup, the Pumas. The 44-37 defeat means the Argentine players can now all return home and a large section of them can prepare for internatioal duty with up to twenty in line for a place in the squad to take on England and Georgia. The side that faced the South Africans had capped players but was not the best possible Pampas XV team. None of Santiago Cordero, Tomás de la Vega,  Bruno Postiglino, Martin Landajo or Tomás Vallejos started.

None of the players wll be involved in Argentina´s test this Saturday in Montevideo against Brazil. A win for Argentina will mean Los Pumas are again the Champions of South America. The match is one of two being played in the Uruguayn capital on Saturday. The other is a Rugby World Cup elimination match between the host nation and Chile. The prize for the winner is a home and away series against the North American runner-up later this year. The side that wins the North v South play-off on aggregate will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 2. There is still hope for the loser as it will be Americas 3 and play in the final place play-off series against qualifiers from Africa, Asia and Europe.

Uruguay´s midweek match against Brazil took its toll as the team to face Chile will be without first choice flyhalf Matías Arocena. The URU is hoping for a packed house for the match against Uruguay and the global rugby spotlight will be focused on the Estadio Charrua. Argentine rugby expert Frankie Deggs wll be amongst the members media at the match. It will be broadcast live on ESPN in a variety of countries as will Argentina v Brazil.

The final round of the regular season of Top 14, Aviva Premiership and the Rabo Direct Pro 12 will be played this weekend. There will be players in action from North and South America with the most interesting perhaps being Felipe Contepomi. The 35 year old will start at flyhalf for Stade Français against Biarritz on Saturday and will be joined by Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga at fullback. An interesting match-up on Saturday will see Uruguay´s Rodrigo Capó Ortega face Argentina´s Manuel Carizza as Castres face Racing Métro.

While Contepomi will stop playing professional rugby at the end of this seaso he remains available for international honors. A player also retiring is former Italian international Carlos Nieto. The Argentine prop decided to play for Italy rather than Argentina and had been a regular in the side before being over taken in the years leading up to Rugby World Cup 2007. Nieto will retire at the end of the this season. He hopes to see Saracens win back the Aviva Premiership first.

Nieto´s decision to play for Italy was, like many Argentine-Italians, based partly on a chance of greater game time due to Argentina being an overall better side than Italy and due to Italy having a place in the Six Nations compared to Argentina who, prior to 2012, only played friendly internationals. More recently the number of Argentine players turning out for Italy has decreased. One player appraoched by the FIR to play for Italy is Juan Pablo Socino. Earlier this week the 24 year old was confirmed to be returning to play in England for RFU Championship side the Rotheram Titans. Socino is playing the current season in the pro d2 for Dax after he decided to play there rather than take up an offer to join Benetton Treviso in Italy and subsequently go on to play for the Azzuri.

Reaction to the scheduling and match allocation for Rugby World Cup 2015 has been mixed with the sports authorities defending the decisions while social media has had a lot of people express their anger towards Wales hosting eight matches. Rugby journalists from both Canada and the USA have challenged the schedule on the grounds that it continues to favor the Tier One teams. Both Americas 1 and Americas 2 will be asked to back-up by playing twice in the space of five days.

Argentina has no such concerns as a dream pool featuring Tonga as one of the two top ranked opponents has been made sweeter by Argentina having been given the honor of playing a match at Wembley Stadium. Los Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe spoke about how excited he was about the prospect of playing at the home of English soccer. The match will be Argentina´s first of the tournament and wll be against New Zealand.

Video of the Week
This week the video of the week award goes to USA Rugby. The governing body of rugby in the United States of America posted a video interviewing the Eagles headcoach Mike Tolkin who gave his thoughts about the up coming season in which the USA is set to play in the Pacific Nations Cup and play Rugby World Cup qualifying matches.  

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