|Photo: UAR Gonzalo Tiesi to captain Los Pumas for the first time|
Argentina´s third and final test of June is set to see a number of changes to the starting lineup. Of the players who started against England on Saturday five have already been replaced in the overall squad while a larger than that is set to start the test. Although only Gonzalo Tiesi has been confirmed and will captain the side, Santiago Phelan´s training sessions so far indicate that the team to face the lelos is to feature nine changes. It is a risk on the part of Phelan given that the non-availability of twenty-one players saw third and fourth choice players take the field against England and the result was two losses and a drop in the IRB World Rankings to ninth in the world.
The changes are spread far and wide with the only consistencies being in the midfield with Tiesi set to be joined again by Gabriel Ascárate. The centres though will find themselves surrounded by vastly different players with the back-three set to include Matías Orlando who will start ahead of the injured Manuel Montero on the left wing. Orlando has been mainly a centre previously, having played in the Vodacom Cup, but was used in the first test on the right wing. He appeared to be more suited to the position than Belisario Agulla who replaced him for the second test and leaked tries. Agulla is set to start again, however, as is Martín Bustos Moyano at fullback. The halves combination is to see two new players with Tomás Cubelli and Benjamin Madero set to replace Nicolás Vergallo and Felipe Contepomi.
In the forwards there are likely to be even more changes with six different players appearing set to start against the Eastern Europeans. Rodrigo Báez trained in a backrow featuring Benjamin Macome and Tomás De la Vega meaning that an all-Los Pampas XV backrow will be starting the match. The secondrow is more experienced with Esteban Lozada and Mariano Galarza set to start in a new secondrow combination. Both players have Rugby World Cup experience and one of them is likely to make the squad for the Rugby Championship. They will play behind an entirely changed frontrow the versatile Bruno Postiglioni set to be given the nod at loosehead prop, the Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe look-alike Mauricio Guidone to play hooker at Biarritz´s Francisco Gómez Kodela to replace Maximilano Bustos at tighthead prop.
For some it is a chance to press for a place in the squad for the Rugby Championship but for most it is a rare opportunity of playing in a test match against a regular Rugby World Cup qualifier. None of the fifteen players who appear set to start got game time for Los Pumas in the 2012 Rugby Championship.
Should this eventuate then the starting lineup will be as follows:
Probable Pumas starting lineup
1 Bruno Postiglioni, 2 Mauricio Guidone, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela
4 Esteban Lozada, 5 Mariano Galarza
6 Rodrigo Báez, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Tomás De la Vega
9 Tomás Cubelli, 10 Benjamín Madero
12 Gabriel Ascárate, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi (captain)
11 Matías Orlando, Martín Bustos Moyano, 14 Belisario Agulla