|Photo UAR: Santi Fernández released from squad due to UAR arrangements|
Daniel Hourcade has named twenty-four players for Argentina´s final match of the year, a must win match against Italy in Rome. A loss for Argentina would confirm 2013 as being the worst year in the history of Argentine rugby with a record nine losses in a row. It would also see Argentina fall outside of the top ten in the IRB World Rankings for the first time ever.
There is a lot to play for from an Argentine perspective as the players need to win back the faith of supporters whom have seen Los Pumas humiliated by Australia, England, South Africa and Wales this year. The only wins have been against Brazil, Chile, Georgia and Uruguay while Argentina was unable to win against Australia in Perth and South Africa in Mendoza despite having the better of the opposition. The results have seen Argentina fall in the rankings and lose credibility in the eyes of many onlookers. While the players are no doubt suffering so are the supporters as the manner in which Argentina has played its past three matches in addition to the performance in Soweto have been extremely hard pills to swallow.
Argentina is not helped by the international order. With there being no global season Argentina lost many rankings points against England in June and now sees its players backing up from the Rugby Championship in a tired state rather than fresh like Wales and others. The global dis-order that is the rugby calender disadvantages those that do not have central contracts over their players. It must become IRB priority to ensure that after Rugby World Cup 2015 there is a universal off-season. Until that happens there will be instances of proud nations forced to field depleted lineups.
Canada lost against Romania on Saturday without many players involved due to good faith with the clubs. Georgia was not at full strength against the USA either while Argentina ´s match against Italy will be one without Patricio Albacete, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernández and Leonardo Senatore. All four have been released back to their clubs in England and France. In other words despite Italy v Argentina being played in the mandatory release window Argentina will not have access to all of its fit players. Like Gonzalo Camacho, Agustín Creevy. Juan Figallo, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Juan Martín Hernández they are all out of the Rome test match.
Replacing Albacete in the squad is Mariano Galarza who faced England but not Wales due to him being released to play for the Worcester Warriors. He now trades back with Senatore due to the agreement between the UAR and the English club. Also joining the squad is the uncapped mid-fielder Matías Moroni who has flown in from Buenos Aires. URBA Top 14 champion with CUBA, Moroni joins the team to offer another centre option due to Fernández and Bosch both missing the match. Hourcade will therefore look to start Gabriel Ascárate and Javier Rojas in the mid-field or give Horacio Agulla a long-awaited start at 13 rather than on the wing.
The squad is otherwise unchanged which means there is no back-up option at fly half. Should Nicolás Sánchez require replacing then a make-shift option such as Lucas González Amorosino would be required. It comes despite 19 year old Patricio Fernández having performed strongly in defeating Buenos Aires in the Campeonato Argentino on Saturday. In the pack Julio Farías Cabello will play for the final time with the 35 year to hang up his boots after having made his test debut at the ripe age of 32. Prior to the match Los Pumas will visit Pope Francis on November 22.
Marcos Ayerza (Leicester, England)
Maximilano Bustos (Montpellier, France)
Matías Díaz (Highlanders, New Zealand)
Nahuel Lobo (Unattached)
Eusebio Guiñazú (Bath, England)
Santiago Iglesias Valdez (Uni. Tucumán)
Manuel Carizza (Stormers, South Africa)
Mariano Galarza (Worcester, England)
Tomás Lavanini (Racing Métro, France)
Pablo Matera (Leicester, England)
Benjamín Macome (Tucumán)
Julio Farías Cabello (Tucumán)
Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon, France)
Tomás Cubelli (Belgrano)
Martín Landajo (CASI)
Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux, France)
Gabriel Ascárate (Glasgow, Scotland)
Matías Moroni (CUBA)
Javier Rojas (Uni. Tucumán)
Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)
Santiago Cordero (Regatas)
Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
Lucas González Amorosino (Oyonnax, France)
Joaquín Tuculet (Bordeaux, France)