Friday, November 1, 2013

Americas Weekend Preview - Five Hot Points

Photo: Worcester Warriors. Senatore to debut in the Aviva Premiership today
The autumn internationals officially get underway this weekend with Japan hosting New Zealand, England hosting Australia and Canada playing the Maori All Blacks in a non-international. It is also going to be a weekend of professional club rugby featuring players from the Americas - the last region to host a Rugby World Cup.

1. Suspension over for Senatore
Having been suspended during the Rugby Championship Leonardo Senatore has seen his place in the Pumas staring lineup vanish due to the impressive Pablo Matera having proven to be a genuine talent. Senatore started at 8 in the opening two rounds of the competition but was in hot water after biting Eben Etzebeth in Mendoza. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe recovered from injury to return for the third match in place of the suspended Senatore in a back-row that also featured Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Matera.

Senatore was one of four players left out of the squad to face England by Daniel Hourcade. He will play today for Worcester against Bath and needs a strong performance to be in consideration for a place in the squad to face Wales. Another not picked for the match was Juan Martín Hernández who has now been ruled out of the tour as he needs four weeks recovery for his hamstring injury. Without Hernández Hourcade looks likely to debut Santiago Cordero while Santiago Fernández should be the reserve fly half which would possibly lead to Marcelo Bosch playing inside centre with Gonzalo Tiesi or Horacio Agulla wearing the 13 shirt.

2. Nicolás Vergallo linked to a return to Super Rugby
Sources within Argentina point out that South Africa Super Rugby Franchise the Stormers is preparing an offer to former Pumas scrum-half Nicolás Vergallo. It would mean a second stint in Super Rugby after he played for the Southern Kings in 2013. The Stormers have already contracted Manuel Carizza who, like Vergallo, has vast experience of playing in France. Vergallo currently plays for Lyon as a medical joker and previously played for Toulouse and Dax. 

With the high loss of players in that position to professional leagues in Europe and Japan South African sides are having a difficult time with scrum-halves. In the 2013 Rugby Championship South Africa field Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Jano Vermaak (Toulouse) and Fourie du Preez (Suntory Sungoliath) played in the position while two have been retained for the November tour of Europe. The new player picked is Louis Schreuder who plays for the Stormers but is uncapped.

3. Unwanted Pumas getting game time in Europe
League action starting this afternoon in the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and Pro 12 will feature Argentine players who have not been selected by Hourcade for the match against England and also others who were not named at all in Hourcade´s original larger squad. One of the three players joining Senatore in the Worcester 23 to face Bath is Ignacio Mieres. Both Tomás Leonardí and Joaquín Domínguez will start for Edinburgh while Gabriel Ascárate will start for fellow Scottish side the Glasgow Warriors. A number of past and presnt Pumas will also take to the field in other matches over the course of the weekend.

4. New format for 2014 Pacific Nations Cup
With the addition of Canada and the USA the Pacific Nations Cup has become a much more expensive competition that previously. The Pacific Nations Cup is crucial to the development of Tier Two rugby with all of Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and the USA having played in every Rugby World Cup in the professional era. The competition is of much better use to the North Americans than the defunct Churchill Cup was and it enables them to both play host to a Tier One union every June. In 2014 Scotland will be touring with a test confirmed for Houston already and both Canada and Argentina expected to confirm matches against the Scots in due course.

Changes to the competition are certain due to Samoa returning after having played against South Africa, Scotland and Italy in June 2013. To cut costs the IRB is to have a north and south Pacific split with Canada and the USA set to play each other and Japan while the three Pacific Island nations will go head-to-head. the winner of the two regional conferences are then to play in November 2014 in what will be a final to crown the winner. With both Canada and the USA set to have full houses to host to Maori All Blacks the final could very well be played in a city such as Toronto or Philadelphia.

5. Notable Players set to feature in Campeonato Argentino
The Argentine domestic competition, the Campeonato Argentino is set to start on Saturday with eight matches being played. The most interesting of which could well be that of Buenos Aires v Cuyo. It will feature an Aguilas team with a number of players from the URBA Top 14 final. Discarded Puma Tomás De La Vega will be a starting back-rower and according to the comments of many on social media he wought to be in the squad to face England on November 9. The reigning Campeonato Argentino champion is Córdoba. 

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