Friday, November 8, 2013

Retro Friday - Federico Méndez Knocks-Out Paul Ackford

Photo BBC: Mendez at RWC 2003
Argentina has had a long history of having veteran front-rowers. It is not uncommon for a prop or hooker to debut young and still be in the national team a decade later. In the case of Federico Méndez the Mendoza front-rower had an international career spanning fifteen years. 

Mendez played seventy-three tests matches for Argentina from 1990-2004 and played for Argentina against the British and Irish Lions in 2005. He was a starting prop for Argentina against the Lions due to coach Marcelo Loffreda missing twenty-six players to club duty. The result was Méndez and Mauricio Reggiardo would have one final appearance in a Pumas shirt and would finish their careers by drawing the match in Cardiff.

The match was a highlight in their careers and their efforts saw the Pumas scrum on top throughout the match and gave Federico Todeschini plenty of opportunities to kick for goal. Two years earlier Méndez had ousted Mario Ledesma to be the starting Argentine hooker against Ireland in the winner takes all Rugby World Cup match in Adelaide. The one point loss sent the South Americans home while Ireland still had one more pool match to play.

Mendez was retained in 2004, playing six test matches but Ledesma had reclaimed the starting position and would keep it until retirement in 2011. Ledesma and Méndez gave each other competition for the number 2 shirt throughout the late 1990´s but despite having played in 1991 and 1995 Méndez would not play at Rugby World Cup 1999. Ledesma was considered by many as the best hooker of the 1999 tournament while four years earlier Méndez had been the starting hooker against all of England, Italy and Samoa. The following year Méndez was one of the first professional Argentine players. During his career he played in South Africa, England and France.

His career began, like it ended, at prop. Méndez played fourteen tests from 1990-June 1994 with all seeing him starting at prop. His first appearance at hooker did not come until October 1994 when South Africa toured Argentina. It was in his first year that Mendez left a lasting impression on the global game as he knocked-out English second-rower Paul Ackford in his second test appearance. The punch ended the match for Ackford who had to be carried off while for Mendez it meant a red card. He was just 18 years old at the time. According to former England prop Jason Leonard prior to the incident Ackford had been grabbing the testicles of Méndez during scrums. Leonard talks about the incident in his autobiography.

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