Friday, November 1, 2013

Retro Friday - Thomas Castaignède praises Juan Martín Hernández in 2007

Photo Telegraph: Juan Martín Hernández looks to get past Brian O´Driscoll
Juan Martín Hernández  will not play for Argentina this month. He is sidelined with a hamstring injury and will miss the entire series and not only the opening fixture against England. No player has been called up to replace him so far and it seems that Nicolás Sánchez will be covered by Santiago Fernández.

While Dan Carter is closing in on 100 test caps for New Zealand Hernández remains on 44 and now serious doubt can be placed over whether or not the 31 year old will be able to reach the 50 mark. So plagued has his career been with injury that not only did he miss out on playing in Rugby World Cup 2011 but he missed out on countless other opportunities including all matches from 2009-2011. Club duty has not helped as he has been unable to represent Argentina on numerous occassions doe to the club season.

This does not, however, explain why Carter has played over 50 more times more than Hernández. Both players made their tests debuts in 2003. Carter did so against Wales in June while Hernández started in April against Paraguay. In the year 2003 Hernández played nine tests, starting seven of them. Carter, in comparison Carter played eight and started five. Neither player began playing fly half. Rather both were moved with Hernández replacing Federico Todeschini in 2007 and Carter replacing Andrew Mehrtens in November 2004. Carter will earn his 98th cap against Japan on Saturday. 

Being amateur that year Hernández was able to play more often for Argentina which partly explains the number of caps compared to Carter in 2003. But thereafter injury and club duty only explains part of the explanation for Carter having made so many more appearances. The real reason is that Argentina was left out in the dark for too long and was added to the Rugby Championship far too late. Since being added Argentina has six more tests per year. Prior to that there were three in June and three in November. Hernández was only able to play at these times while aside from these tests Argentina´s only competition was in the South American Championship.

The authorities took far too long to act to get Argentina into a Tier One competition and this was made all too clear during Rugby World Cup 2007 as the Agustín Pichot captained team was too strong for its European rivals as it continued what it had been doing in Europe in previous years by winning away from South America. When Argentina was added to the Rugby Championship the players were predominantly still all professionals and were contracted to big name clubs but the overall quality had dropped as had the coaching produced inferior results in the 2008-2013 period.

The Hernández of 2013 is not the same as the player that led Stade Français to the Top 14 title and won a Bronze Medal at the World Cup after knocking out Ireland and Scotland and defeating France twice. At the helm of Los Pumas was Hernández and former French international fly half Thomas Castaignede talked very highly of him during the tournament. Upon eliminating Ireland Castaignede praised Hernández as the best rugby player in the world. 

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