Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Phelan changes five to face the Wallabies in Perth

Photo Rodrigo Vergara: Agustín Creevy will finally start for Los Pumas
The concept rotation policy was not used whatsoever by Santiago Phelan in the 2012 Rugby Championship but one year on it is indeed alive and well. It is a policy highly favored by Graham Henry as Henry believes it is about getting the most out of ones players. 

Henry championed the policy with the All Blacks to mixed effect. In 2005, for instance, Henry made a staggering fifteen changes to the starting lineup to face Ireland in November one week after facing Wales. In other words, two entirely different New Zealand teams faced and defeated top European opposition. Such a policy has been used, at times, in the Rugby Championship too but with less success. Henry opted to rotate players in the 2011 Tri Nations and consequently lost against both Australia and New Zealand on the road. 

Argentina is, of course, a rugby nation with less resources than that of New Zealand. There is still no professional competition in Argentina with Los Pampas XV being the source of professionalism for the time being. With Argentina´s players either being from Los Pampas or being contracted to European clubs the possibility of utilizing player rotation has until now not been considered realistic. The influence of Henry on Phelan ahead of facing the Wallabies in Perth is therefore plain for all to see. 

Some of the changes are expected while others are overdue but in naming five changes ahead of facing a top three rugby nation it is significant. One chage is injury impacted but was, nonetheless, likely. Juan Imhoff will start on the left wing and see Horacio Agulla move to the right wing in place of the injured Gonzalo Camacho. Agulla was not likely to face Australia due to his skill set not offering the same attacking options as Imhoff. The percieved Australian shortcomings were therefore in line with Imhoff replacing Agulla. 

Imhoff is the only chage in the back-three while Gonzalo Tiesi wll make his first ever start in a Rugby Championship match. When Argentina was added to the competition Tiesi´s name was penciled in as the likely starting 13 but he missed the 2012 tournament through injury which saw Marcelo Bosch fill his boots and earn plenty of praise in the process. Bosch will sit the match out with Santiago Fernández being the replacement mid-fielder. Fernández has dropped back to the bench with Felipe Contepomi named to start at inside centre. He will join Nicolás Sánchez in a 10-13 while the starting scrumhalf will be Tomás Cubelli who replaces Martín Landajo. The selection of Cubelli marks his starting debut against a Tier One side and is the third scrumhaklf used in the Rugby Championship by Phelan after Nicolás Vergallo was used for half of the 2012 tournament. 

A fifth change to the starting lineup for the test sees Agustín Creevy named as the starting hooker. The former Montpellier front-rower who will join the Worcester Warriors in October was set to start in the 2012 tournament but broke a rib in a warm-up fixture against Stade Français. The result was that Eusebio Guiñazú was utilized throughout the year and it is only now that Creevy will get to start. Creevy was the replacement for Mario Ledesma at Rugby World Cup 2011 and has firmly established himself as Argentina´s leading hooker. Guiñazú is slower but considered better in the scrum and lineouts than Creevy. Against Australia the scrum should not be a factor and Creevy will certainly have his long awaited chance to shine. Guiñazú no doubt has partly paid the price for a lack of discipline. He was yellow carded in the first half for the second time in three matches last Saturday. Just like in Mendoza two tries were scored while he was in the sin bin.

1 Marcos Ayerza, 2 Agustín Creevy, 3 Juan Figallo
4 Manuel Carizza, 5 Julio Farías Cabello
6 Juan Fernández Lobbe, 8 Juan Leguizamón, 7 Pablo Matera

9 Tomás Cubelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez
12 Felipe Contepomi, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi
11 Juan Imhoff, 15 Juan Martín Hernández, 14 Horacio Agulla

16 Eusebio Guiñazú
17 Nahuel Lobo
18 Juan Pablo Orlandi
19 Mariano Galarza
20 Benjamín Macome
21 Martín Landajo
22 Santiago Fernández
23 Lucas González Amorosino


  1. There is some debate about which is the best centres, but with Creevy, Cubelli and Imhoff all starting those are all probably the best options.

    Astonishingly this is Creevy's first start as a hooker for Argentina after 23 substitute appearances. He was going to be the first choice after Ledesma but that arm injury knocked him out the side. His scrummaging is fine in my opinion but lineout can be his achilles heel.

    I approve of Cubelli starting. He's a better game controller than Landajo, more of an all round player whilst Landajo is more of a sniping scrum half.

    He is a very smart intelligent player as well. I remember a match for the Pampas XV in 2012 when he twice chased back a lost cause as the opposition player was running into score when all his teammates had given up. He didn't stop the tries, but he stopped them going under the posts and the conversions were missed and the Pampas XV ended up winning by 1 point.

    I think that Guinazu has lost his place for his sin bins and poor lineouts against New Zealand. After all he was in the team for the better lineout and it didn't go well against New Zealand anyway. Landajo also may have lost his place for that error that led to the try.

    By the way, what has happened to Leonardi? Not even on the bench. Joining the Southern Kings seems to have been a career killer for the two Argentines.

  2. It was never a realistic option to rotate players in the first year of the rugby championship.

    As usual, this blog is always underestimating the capacity for invention and flexibility that Santiago Phelan has been showing consistently since the beginning of his tenure, which, by the way, has been by far the toughest and most challenging transition any Puma head coach has ever had to face, and is likely ever to face in the future of this nation's very proud amateur rugby.

    It was Santiago Phelan who discovered "el Chipi Figallo" who subsequently, after a long process of development, was named as a starter ahead of legend prop Szelso for the 2011 world cup.

    Subsequently, Figallo was named player of the group of death in the world cup. Incredible when one considers that he was a virtual unknown before Phelan unearthened him and brought to Buenos Aires from a small northern province in Argentina.

    And when Phelan's first choice center went down with an injury against England in the same world cup, who was behind him to replace him if none other than another yet unknown indefatigable defender, Marcelo Bosch.

  3. It was also Santiago Phelan who brought along Amorosino to the world cup 2011, amidst controversy as usual, when the back was also a virtual unknown. If we look at the team as it is now, it looks very different from the team that he inherited in 2007.

    And it was thanks to Amorosino's clutch last minute play that the Pumas overcame a higher ranked team to go on to the next round at the expense of the more veteran coach, Robinson, who knows one or two things about how to play these kinds of matches.

    And it is also thanks to Santiago Phelan that the Pumas have finally settled on a fly half, after a long and epic search.

    Many behind closed doors are whispering this guy may be as good a kicker as the legendary flyhalf from England, Wilkinson, just to give one an idea of how monumental is this player for Argentina - and well worth the wait.

    And if it is still up for debate whether Sanchez is as good as Wilkinson, what is beyond any doubt is that he tackles better.

    Another player that was developed and was totally transformed from a reliable ford falcon into a 5 series BMW thanks to the stewardship of Santiago Phelan is Carizza.

    Arguably Carizza and Albacete today conform one of the best three or four second lines in the world.

    Then there was Eusebio Guiniazu. Eusebio was transformed from a well known medical joker who went from club to club being able to play all three first line scrum positions to an established world class hooker. That was a Santiago Phelan creation, too.

    And now we come to the latest incarnation of Santiago Phelan's creativity and opportunism, personified in the astonishing play of youngster Pablo Matera, who Richie Macaw traded jerseys with on his debut match against the All Blacks.

    What is even more remarkable is how it came about as the trigger of this situation was the injury of the most emblematic Puma since Agustin Pichot, Fernandez Lobbe.

    In effect, Santiago Phelan, ever the alquemist, turned a disheartening negative into an opportunity with critical mass consequences yet to be appreciated, as it seems likely that Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, and Fernandez Lobbe are on the cusp of becoming the world's best third line..

    So I would not underestimate Santiago Phelan's capacity for creative thinking to overcome a multitude of challenges which Argentine rugby always seems destined to have more of than any other first tier nation in the world.

    It's a mistake to underestimate Santiago Phelan or even try to put him in a cookie mold.

    This guy is clearly dynamic, has a passion for what he does, and he adapts fast.

    He has always brought and known how to bring in new blood to the team. Nothing new. Another guy he unearthed out of nowhere was Julio Farias, for example, who made his debut as a starter with over thirty years.

    Which shows to the lengths snd depths Phelan has had to go and struggle to find new players and re-build from 2007's constellation of epic Puma gladiators.

    No coach in world rugby has had it rougher or more challenging than Santiago Phelan.

    Everybody does rotations. It's nothing new when you have the players to take advantage of getting more rested and fresher starters. It's not exactly theoretical physics. Just ask Meyer.

    So these rotations are just as likely logical results of finally having more options, as they may be outcomes of the influence of Sir Henry.

    1. With all due respect you are mixing Phelan with Daniel Hourcade and assuming all players have been picked by Phela when it is not the case.

      * Julio Farías was playing in France when Hourcade saw him and convinced him to return to Argentina and push for a place in the test team.

      * Hourcade coached Los Pampas XV not Phelan. Sánchez, Imhoff, Creevy (as a hooker), Senatore, Bustos, Landajo, Cubelli and Tuculet all emerged under Hourcade´s coaching.

      * Figallo and Galarza were Pumas tourists in 2008 but did not play on the tour of France, Italy and Ireland. Indeed they had to wait two years for Phelan to give them any game time.

      * Camacho and González Amorosino came through the Sevens system. Both of them made the team in 2009 due to Lucas Borges no longer producing the goods, José Maria Nuñez Piossek now longer playing professional rugby and Ignacio Corleto being unavailable. This saw Agulla move to fullback and Camacho start with Leonelli as the wingers against England. Leonelli was injured which saw the much better González Amorosino play.

      * Matera and Díaz are rare exceptions. Their talents have been pushed from the begining rather than them traveling with the team but not playing. i.e. Figallo in 2008 and Santiago Cordero in 2012.

    2. That's so typical. I don't see the respect.

      Who makes the selections ?? Daniel Hourcade or Santiago Phelan ? Santiago Phelan makes the selection.

      One of the capacities that a head coach in a national team has is to delegate function and understand his role in the larger skeme of running and building a team.

      It's entirely a credit to Tati's management skills that he has the ability to rely on a larger structure that extends all the way to the grass roots level to make his decisions and, in particular, his selections for the national team.

      All you are doing is supporting my case because it demonstrates Santiago Phelan's ability to maximise resources available to him for his success is very high.

      Daniel Hourcade has been a valuable asset in that regard. And Phelan's demonstrated ability to draw upon ANYONE'S experience to affect the direction of the team effort, is part of the job description of any head coach.

      Ulimate accountability and responsability, though, rests with the head coach. And therefore, Santiago Phelan gets the credit for bringing in these players into the fold, not Daniel Hourcade.

      The credit, and the responsibility, for the selections are all Tati's and it is incredibly disengenous and unfair to say otherwise.

      It's not to have any notion on how a large organizational structure with layers of operations actually works in the real world.


  4. Fair play. I got a good laugh out of that.

  5. Fact is that Argentina have fallen to 10th in the World Rankings under Phelan. Are the team moving forwards?

    1. Fact is the Pumas would be ranked a lot higher if it were not that the first choice players from Europe, currently playing the 4Nations, ARE NOT available for international duty in the June window of competition.

      It's to Santiago Phelan's great credit that he chooses sides like England to invite to come and play against 3rd and even 4th choice players from our amateur league in Argentina - purely for developmental reasons.

      To use this against him knowing full well the reality of the situation - use Argentina's fictitious ranking- is really beyond contempt. But thank you for bringing it up because, 1) it demonstrates more clearly than anything the mean spiritedness and lack of intellectual integrity that characterizes these attacks - not debates.

      And 2) It brings to the fore the inherent unfairness and pressures of the system under which Santiago Phelan has to work with and which no other coach in the world has to deal with like this guy.

      This includes competing in the 4Nations without a June window which, incredibly, this blog maintains is irrelevant to the performance of the team.