|Matera and Senatore debuted in the Rugby Championship in 2013|
One of the central components to the Pumas ability to out play opposition teams during Rugby World Cup 2007 was the quality of players that played in the back-row. When Argentina met its match in the form of South Africa the same aspect that has seen Los Pumas dismantle Ireland and also out perform France and Scotland was no more.
Particularly against the Irish the combination of Gonzalo Longo at number 8, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe at openside flanker and Lucas Ostiglia on the blindside flank was impressive. With them playing behind a potent second-row of Patricio Albacete and Carlos Ignacio Fernández Lobbe and one of the best front-rows of the modern era Argentina had a solid platform that truely gave Agustín Pichot a complete forward pack. Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma and Martín Scelzo were all at the peak of their careers while the bench had Omar Hasan and the reserve second-rower was Rimas Alvarez Kairelis. Everyone of these players either won a Top 14 or Aviva Premiership title or was a defeated finalist.
One of the clear aspects of the 2013 Rugby Championship was that Argentina lacked the same quality and cohession that saw Argentina succeed in the 2004-2007 period. The front-row in 2013 clearly proved to be world class but questions were raised over the quality of a number of replacements. The second-row suffered from injury but, Albacete was noticably the only player in the position to really be either of the standard or better than the opposition teams. In other words the quality of Carlos Ignacio Fernández Lobbe and Rimas Alvarez Kairelis in 2007 was not replicated in 2013. The encouraging news though is that some of the performaces, particularly against New Zealand featured a notable Pumas back-row.
Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe 7/10
The performance of back-rowers was also, overall, inferior to that of the 2007 team and this was the case despite three of the five players recieving positive press from rugby media during the Rugby Championship. Captain Corcho Fernández Lobbe was named by Planet Rugby in the team of the tournament. While he did perform well there were suggestions that it was a sympathy vote. Overall Fernández Lobbe played well with the Toulon back-rower being a consistent performer. With him missing the first two matches to injury Argentina was forced into changes. His return had a positive impact but overall he did not produce the same level of rugby that he did in 2012 when he was the best Argentine player by quite some distance.
Juan Manuel Leguizamón 8/10
While Corcho played well he arguably fell short of the standards that he delivered previously. Juan Manuel Leguizamón, in contrast, has a reputation of being very unreliable due to him being superb one week only to fall off the radar in the following match. Indeed in 2012 he was replaced early in many matches with Tomás Leonardí getting plenty of game time. In 2013, however, Leguizamón really impressed as he was one of the best players for Argentina throughout the campiagn. Leguizamón scored three tries - one against each opposition team and really showed maturity to lead the back-row while Corcho watched on from the sideliness in the early rounds. His form was arguably the best in his career thus far and should he continue then there is a possibility of Argentina re-creating a quality back-row similar to that from 2007.
Pablo Matera 8/10
Few had heard of Pablo Matera three months ago but now he is a house hold name and a professional rugby player having joined the most successful English team of all time the Leicester Tigers. The selection of Matera appeared to many to have been out of desperation due to Fernández Lobbe being injured. Followers of Argentine rugby at the junior level knew that, in reality, Matera was selected entirely on merit. Indeed Julio Farías Cabello found himself used as a second-rower in the 2013 campaign despite having been a first choice back-rower in 2011 and 2012. Farías Cabello was regarded by many as the best Puma at the World Cup and could have been the starting back-rower but was, instead on the bench for the Soweto test which had Matera joining Leguizamón and Senatore. In subsequent matches Matera proved to be of the required level as he was a good tackler and ball carrier and also delivered both as a lineout worker and in the breakdown area. Without question Matera secured his place permanently and did so at the young age of 20.
Leonardo Senatore 4/10
With Fernández Lobbe injured Senatore was the starting number 8 against South Africa in the first two matches of the tournament. Having earned starts on the November tour of Europe in November 2012 the 2013 Rugby Championship would be a true test of the quality of the Rosario back-rower. Senatore has been around the scene for quite some time. He started the Quarter Final against New Zealand and made the break leading to the South Americans impressive try in the encounter. Senatore also had a stint with Toulon and is now contracted to the Worcester Warriors. In 2012 he was on the bench for the Rugby Championship and recieved few opportunities. His performances against South Africa were sounds but not convincing as the world class opposition was able to attack and defend better than the Pumas back-row. In the Soweto test Senatore, like Argentina in general, had problems and he was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle. He became South Africa´s least favorite Puma the following weekend for bitting Eben Etzebeth. He was subsequently banned with his tournament being ended. Discipline indeed was a notable point that sees Senatore earn a low rating.
Benjamín Macome 4/10
Macome replaced Tomás Leonardí as a specialist back-rower in the squad based on a number of factors. One of note was his performance against England in the June internationals. Macome was a better ball carrier in the test matches which saw his profile improve. In the Rugby Championship, however , he recieved limited game time. With Santiago Phelan not showing confidence to replace tired players with Macome it was unclear why Phelan has made the selection. Macome´s future as a Puma could well in in doubt given that Argentina is in dire need of fresh ideas and that in addition to Matera there are other notable young players to call upon. Facundo Isa of Toulon could indeed be selected to replace Macome.
2013 Pumas Player Ratings