Monday, September 9, 2013

Two years on from 2011 there is optimism for Pumas in 2015

Photo: Telegraph How many 2011 Pumas will be in the team come 2015?

Two years ago to this day saw New Zealand and Tonga taking the field at Eden Park to open Rugby World Cup 2011. Argentina´s campaign began on the second day of competition with a match against England in Dunedin. The South American side out-played the English but were unable to score a try in what was a match dominated by missed penalty goals. In the end England got home after replacement scrumhalf Ben Youngs went over for the only try of the match in the secondhalf.

The match, from Argentina´s perspective, was the one that away. Partly to blame was the loss of starting players to injury which saw an experimental mid-field forced together as both Juan Imhoff and Marcelo Bosch were called upon as first half replacements. The following pool match against Romania was about re-building ahead of the crunch match against Scotland. Argentina had few problems against the east Europeans and then got home by one point against Scotland. A win over Georgia the following weekend had Argentina entering the Quarter Finals against the hosts. 

Los Pumas performance against the All Blacks was considered to be strong. This was the case despite the New Zealanders getting home with late tries to win by a comfortable margin. Argentina took the field without Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe who had been injured in the first half against Scotland. Also missing was Tiesi whose World Cup was over after the Dunedin injury while Juan Martín Hernández was out of the tournament before it had started. The World Cup was the end of Martín Scelzo and Mario Ledesma while a third veteran front-rower, Rodrigo Roncero would last one more year. Now at the mid-way point between Rugby World Cup´s it is time to evaluate who else will not be around come England / Wales 2015. 

One player certain to be out of the frame is Felipe Contepomi. The 36 year old will retire after the completion of the 2013 Rugby Championship. Other players on the wrong side of 30 include Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza, Julio Farías Cabello, Juan Martín Hernández, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and captain Corcho Fernández Lobbe. Of these players all, except Farías Cabello would appear in the running to not only play in the World Cup but to be in the starting lineup. Also aged 30 or older is Eusebio Guiñazú who did not play in New Zealand 2011 but has since been used by Santiago Phelan as the number one hooker. Similarly Juan Pablo Orlandi has been in and out of the team and is in his 30´s. 

There are, however, a host of players who not only are already emerging as likely starters in 2015 but could also be in the Pumas team in 2023, the year which Argentina ought to host the Rugby World Cup. The 2013 Rugby Championship has already seen Pablo Matera, Matías Díaz and Tomás Lavanini get game time against South Africa. All three are still only 20 years of age. They represent the new generation of Pumas players and quite possibly a new era as Argentina closes in on a place in Super Rugby. All three will be 30 come Rugby World Cup 2023 and their rise comes ahead of professional players in their positions whom Phelan has overlooked based on a point of view that the 20 year olds are better. 

It is a warning to senior players that nobody can be said to be guaranteed his place in the starting XV. Matera has the Pumas 6 shirt in his grasp in a permanent capacity with Tomás Leonardí back from South Africa but outside of the squad. Matera´s inclusion comes at the expense of Leonardo Senatore who suspended or not was always going to be replaced by a returning Fernández Lobbe. Similarly the inclusion of Lavanini comes ahead of professionals based in Europe and Japan while Díaz made his debut ahead of the likes of Maximilano Bustos and Francisco Goméz Kodela who play regularly for Montpellier and Biarritz. Carizza now has genuine competition and will need to play at his best to retain the starting position alongside a fit Albacete. 

The rise of such players, therefore gives reason for optimism ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015. Crucial to Argentina having a team that can win a Quarter Final will be using the time to confirm the ability of players by giving them sufficient game time in a Pumas shirt. A failure to do so could see aged players starting ahead of gifted youngsters including not only Díaz, Lavanini and Matera but also the highly promising Patricio Fernández and Santiago Cordero. Argentina has time and although it is not known who will be coaching Los Pumas do not be surprized to see these players starting against Italy in November.

The article acn also be read on Argentine site Rugby Fun

1 comment:

  1. You could have chosen a host of players who have been left out in the cold from los jaguars and los pampas 15.
    This has always been the conservative attitude to Argentine rugby and I've been surprised by the selection of Matera but not not his performances, as he looked classy at JRWC 2012!
    2015 is too close to think about success, but 2019 and 2023 could be very fruitful indeed.