Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Pumas Player Ratings - Part One Prop and Hooker

Figallo, Guiñazú and Ayerza started the majority of matches in the Rugby Championship 
A supporter of Argentina hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 has asked for an analysis of the player ratings of all Pumas players involved in the Rugby Championship. With the squad for the November internationals set to be confirmed in the coming weeks a look back at the performances of Argentine players at international level this year serves to better unfderstand the individual standings of players and the possibilities for the future. 

Prior to the 2013 Rugby Championship Argentina played six tests with away matches against South American opposition being followed by home matches against England and Georgia. All were official capped internationals despite Argentina never being at full strength. Of the front-rowers that faced Brazil, Chile and Uruguay there was one player in the squad for the Rugby Championship - Matías Díaz. No player that faced England or Georgia played against Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Argentina´s substantial loss of IRB Rankings points in the month of June should therefore be largely ignored due to not only the front-row but all positions featuring reserve rather than test players getting game time while Argentina´s leading players were rested ahead of the Rugby Championship. 

In total there were sevens front-rowers who took to the field for Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Overall the front-rowers did what was expected of them and provided a solid platform to build a game plan around. In the Planet Rugby team of the Rugby Championship both starting props were Pumas. Marcos Ayerza and Juan Figallo were deemed as being the best loosehead and tighthead props in the competition with this confirming what many following of the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 have long said - the Leicester and Montpellier contracted players are as good as they come. 

Marcos Ayerza 9/10
The veteran Leicester Tigers loosehead prop is a certainty to play in Rugby World Cup 2015. The multiple time English champion is well known in Europe for being amongst the best props and in the 2013 Rugby Championship he showed just why. Filling the boots of the retired Rodrigo Roncero, Ayerza weas able to consistently perform and produce performances to give his team chances of winning matches. His scrum technique and lineout lifting was top quality and he had a strong work rate around the field. What prevented Ayerza from being the complete player was stamina. It was clear that he was in need of being replaced late in matches.  

Juan Figallo 10/10
Any time a team can go to New Zealand and bully the All Blacks scrum is an indication of excellence. This was the case in Hamilton in the third round of the Rugby Championship with the Pumas front-row coming together after Argentina had not been able to get the better of South Africa in this department in the opening two matches. Part of the problem was that the scrum in the Soweto test lacked the first choice front-row combination while in Mendoza it was the first time Figallo and Ayerza had played together in the competition´s history. Figallo played five matches in the competition and was praised by rugby media worldwide as being the best tighthead prop in the world. Still only 25 years of age Figallo has a long career ahead of him. He will miss out on international duty in November due to injury. 

Nahuel Lobo 6/10
Few chances were given to the young but highly promising Nahuel Lobo. He was used as a replacement and was usually able to continue off the good work as the scrum continued to advance. The 22 year old is considered to be the next in line behind Ayerza for the loosehead position but Santiago Phelan selected Matíaz Díaz to play tighthead and moved Figallo to loosehead prop for the Soweto test due to Ayerza being injured. Lobo impressed playing for Montpellier last season as a medical joker. The signs are that Lobo is a player to pay close attention to with his development thus far being highly positive. He is likely to be in the test team for quite some time and could earn a start next month for Argentina.  

Matíaz Díaz 6/10
It is very rare for a player who has just turned 20 to start a test match against the mighty Springboks but this is what occured in Soweto with Matiáz Díaz playing as the starting tighthead prop after he had debuted for Argentina against Uruguay several months earlier. Diáz played in the IRB Junior World Championship in both 2012 and 2013 amnd has a great future ahead of him having secured a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders. In the Rugby Championship Díaz did not have the best of debuts as the scrum did not function well. He subsequently was left out of the team for the following four matches but earned a recall as a replacement for the home test against Australia in Rosario. In the match Díaz redeemed himself and his technique in the scrum was particularly impressive. Díaz is in the Argentine Jaguares side currently playing in the Americas Rugby Championship in Canada. He is likely to get game time for Los Pumas in place of Figallo next month and should be used as the starting number 3. 

Juan Pablo Orlandi 6/10
With Figallo ruled out of starting the final test of the competition Orlandi was given the chance to start. It was his first start in a Pumas shirt since facing England in June 2009. In what was his only start Orlandi was able to impress and was named by Planet Rugby as the best tighthead prop of the round. He did, however miss a tackle allowing Israel Folau to score a try and was taken off early with Díaz being his replacement. The former Racing Métro prop has moved to Bath and will debut this weekend for the club in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Orladi missed out on selection for the November 2012 tour after having been a replacement throughout the 2-12 Rugby Championship. The likes of the French and Welsh based Maximilano Bustos, Francisco Gomáz Kodela and Francisco Tetaz Nahuel Chaparro could indeed be used in place of Orlandi next month.

Eusebio Guiñazú 2/10
Having been set to be the reserve hooker for Argentina in the 2012 Rugby Championship Guiñazú found himself starting all matches after Agustín Creevy was injured playing against Stade Français in a Rugby Championship warm-up fixture. Creevy would return after Guiñazú had started the first two matches against South Africa and had delivered the best performance of his career in the second test in Mendoza. Guinãzú would then hold the shirt in November with Creevy again on the bench. This continued in 2013 as Guiñazú started five out of six matches in the Rugby Championship. Although Guiñazú was highly impressive in Mendoza in 2012 the same was not true twelve months on. Even in the 2012 November tour Creevy was the better player with his performance from the bench against Wales being the best in a Pumas shirt by a hooker of the year. In 2013 Guiñazú was too slow around the park and was yellow carded in two matches. He is highly unlikely to retain his place in the post-Phelan era. 

Agustín Creevy 8/10
In his only start in the competition and his only ever start for Argentina thus far Agustín Creevy was awarded by Planet Rugby as being the best hooker in the fourth round of the competition. The website named Creevy in the team of the week but he would be dropped with Guiñazú returning for the subsequent home matches against New Zealand and Australia. Critics of Creevy point out that his throwing is not consistent enough and that Guiñazú is also better in the scrum. Followers of Montpellier were exposed to the qualities of Creevy who held down the starting hooker position unlike Guiñazú at professional level. In other words a safety first policy has led to Creevy recieving too few opportunities and this cannot continue after he was able to always continute more to his country than Guinãzú throughout the Rugby Championship. Creevy is younger than Guiñazú who will be pusing it to be in the squad for Rugby World Cup 2015. Creevy, on the other hand, is likely to be the starting hooker. In addition to gaining more metres as a ball carrier Creevy completed two turnovers in Perth. 

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