|Photo Rodrigo Vergara UAR: Leguizamón and the Pope|
1. Pumas and the Pope
2013 has been a long and difficult year for Argentine rugby with ten losses out of eleven tests excluding the South American Championship. The home win against Georgia in San Juan is hardly enough to cheer up the loyal Pumas supporters who have seen their team drop to tenth in the IRB World Rankings and lose very badly against Australia, England, South Africa and Wales. The players though will enter the match against Italy this Saturday at the Stadio Olimpio in strong heart after having been blessed by Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier today.
2. Live Tier 2 Rugby
Even though there are tests next weekend this weekend is the official final weekend of the autumn internationals. Wales v Australia next weekend will see the home side missing many players who play their rugby outside of Wales. This weekend has some very interesting matches with big games in Bucharest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome and Tbilisi. The matches of Portugal v Canada, Georgia v Samoa and Romania v Fiji will all be available live on irb.com. It is not all about celebration however as the test match between Russia and the USA in London will not be broadcast.
3. Five All Blacks in Brazil
Brazil only played one test match in the month of November and it was not one to remember but the future nonetheless remains all about possibilities. With the Olympic Games now three years away the preparation going into the Rugby Sevens national teams continues to be of interest to rugby followers. Many of Brazil´s best players missed the Portuguese test due to a training camp in New Zealand at the time and the link between the CBRu and the Crusaders has resulted in AIG organizing an event in São Paulo next week. From November 26-28 the All Black Sponsor will be funding a camp in the largest South American city featuring All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Francis Saili Julian Savea and Jeremy Thrush. On November 27 the five All Black players will participate in a closed match that will feature athletes from the Brazilian test team. The CBRu has organized a campaign which will see sixty others attend based on their production of a video.
4. Test Players Missing International Duty
Canada is playing in Lisbon in a fully sanctioned international match with IRB rankings on the line. Argentina is doing so in Rome and the USA in London. Despite the matches carrying test status and them being played during the IRB mandatory release window all three countries from the Americas are missing players this weekend to the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and Rabo Direct Pro 12. Santiago Fernández, was released and is on the bench for Bayonne while Patricio Albacete will be starting for Toulouse. Taku Ngwenya will start for Biarritz while both Marcelo Bosch and Leonardo Senatore will start for their English clubs while Candians Jamie Cudmore, DTH van der Merwe and Jebb Sinclair are also all to start. Rugby Canada´s policy of keeping the clubs happy comes at the expense of the product and could backfire. Individual circumstances have seen some miss out for other reasons but there are, nonetheless, players out of action for their countries during the international season which underlines the lack of control over the IRB´s law.
5. Last Match for Farías
Not many players make their test debuts at the age of 32 and it is also not common for a 35 year old to hold down a starting position for a Tier One rugby nation. But after having been a mainstay in the Pumas team Julio Farías Cabello is set to play for the final time as he starts in the back-row for Argentina against Italy in Rome. Farías will start on the side of the scrum in a new look combination with Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Benjamín Macome. A win will be the teams aim and Farías himself certainly does not want to end his career any other way. In losing Fariás Cabello Argentina will need more depth in both the back-row and secondrow.