|Photo: UAR Imhoff steps with Fernández Lobbe in support|
Argentina´s preperation for the Rugby Championship is entering its final phase. The national mens team - Los Pumas will face the New South Wales Waratahs in two matches with the first taking place this coming weekend. Before then, however Santiago Phelan´s players are finalizing their game plan and earlier today they played a match against Los Jaguares at the Club San Andrés which doubled as training. With the match being a non-international and non-competition match it was played under friendly rules which saw both teams field far more than twenty-three players. There were twelve replacements who entered the match in place of the starting Pumas.
Exactly who did and did not start offers insight into the possible starting lineup set for the start of the Rugby Championship in less than three weeks time. The starting frontrow was Marcos Ayerza, Agustín Creevy and Matías Díaz which means none of the starting players from the 2012 Rugby Championship were in the run-on team. The trio of Martín García Veiga, Juan Figallo and Bruno Postiglioni did feature as replacements but Postiglioni is, curiously, not a part of the Pumas squad. The secondrow had Mariano Galarza joining Patricio Albacete while Manuel Carizza came on as a replacement. Rounding out the forwards were Juan Manuel Leguizamón and captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe with Benjamin Macome joining them and both Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore covering from the bench.
Despite having left the Southern Kings Tomás Leonradí has not entered the Pumas squad and will therefore not feature in the Rugby Championship. His Super Rugby colleague Nicolás Vergallo remains in South Africa for the promotion-relegation battle with the Lions but there is also a question mark over his participation, or not, in the Rugby Championship. The starting scrumhalf today was Tomás Cubelli who did so ahead of Martín Landajo.
The starting flyhalf was Juan Martín Hernández which saw Nicolás Sánchez on the bench and despite Felipe Contepomi playing inside centre Hernández was the goalkicker. Joining Contepomi in the centres was Marcelo Bosch while both Santiago Fernández and Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga were replacements. Also in the starting lineup were Horacio Agulla, Lucas González Amorosino and Juan Imhoff. They were the starting back-three and the replacements wer Gonzalo Camacho and a player who has been training with Los Pumas but is not a part of the squad - teenager Santiago Cordero.
Unfortunately the match did not come without concerns. Pumas vice captain Patricio Albacete was injured and will undergo studies to determine the problem and recovery time. Should he be unavailable it would be a massive loss and would see either Galarza or Julio Farías Cabello joining Manuel Carizza in the starting secondrow. Farías Cabello was one of six players who did not play due to injury concerns. The others were Eusebio Guiñazú, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Gonzalo Tiesi and Joaquín Tuculet.
Argentina´s try scorers in the match were Lucas González Amorosino (2), Juan Imhoff (2), Gonzalo Camacho (2), Tomás Cubelli, Leonardo Senatore, Pablo Matera, Mariano Galarza, Martín Garcías Veiga, Martín Landajo and Benjamín Macome. Juan Martín Hernández converted four tries and Nicolás Sánchez five. The oly try scored by Los Jaguares was scored by winger Dan Issack and was converted by Santiago González Iglesias. Despite the scorreline suggesting the Jaguares team was very weak there were players in the team who has played tests for Argentina in 2012 and 2013 - Mauricio Guidone, Rodrigo Bruno and Tomás De La Vega, Also included was Tomás Lavanini with the secondrower set to confirm a two year Super Rugby contract with New Zealand side the Chiefs.
Los Pumas play again on Friday against the Waratahs in Salta. There are certain to be a number of changes with Phelan likely to name a team more closely resembling the probable starting XV to face the Springboks.