Thursday, November 7, 2013

Should Argentina follow the Australian State of Origin model?

Saturday´s upcoming match between England and Argentina will be revolutionary. It is to be the first time in history that a captain and coach are to be from the north. The Buenos Aires dominance and semi-monopoly over Argentine rugby has come to a end. The landscape has changed significantly and for the better. The power shift opens up new possibilities that would not have been possible without investments outside of the capital.

At Rugby World Cup 2007 Argentina took the rugby world by storm to shake up the global order. The team on the field though was far from being one representing the rugby strong regions or most populated areas of the country. To the contrary a staggering twenty-six of the thirty players that were in Marcelo Loffreda´s squad were from Buenos Aires. The four from outside of the capital were Omar Hasan (Tucumán), Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Santiago del Estero), Martín Schusterman (San Juan), Federico Todeschini (Rosario). The four were joined by Eusebio Guiñazú who replaced the injured Mario Ledesma for the Bronze Final. Three of the four players played in Buenos Aires during their early days which resulted in them being signed to play in Europe. Todeschini´s Argentine club was Atlético del Rosario which plays in the URBA Top 14 while Leguizamón moved to Buenos Aires to play for SIC and Schusterman was raised in Buenos Aires. In other words only Hasan and the injury included Guiñazú were 2007 Pumas to not have links to URBA. 

The changes during this period have revolutionized Argentine rugby on the ground and it is increasingly been reflected in the make-up of the Pumas teams. So much so that thirteen players in the thirty man Pumas squad for the 2013 Rugby Championship were not from Buenos Aires. Rosario was represented by Manuel Carizza, Juan Imhoff, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga and Leonardo Senatore. Tucumán had Julio Farías Cabello, Benjamín Macome and Nicolás Sánchez, Mendoza had Eusebio Guiñazú, Juan Orlandi and Matías Díaz, Salta had Juan Figallo, Santiago del Estero had Juan Leguizamón and Entre Rios was represented by Nahuel Lobo. New players for the November internationals have seen Daniel Hourcade select five different players, four of which are not from Buenos Aires. Javier Rojas, Santiago Iglesias Valdez and Gabriel Ascárate are all from Tucumán, Maximilano Bustos is from Santa Fé leaving only 19 year old Santiago Cordero as a player from the capital. 

The clear conclusion to be made from this is that the investment in academy programs in Argentina since 2007 that have seen the creation of the PladAR program and Los Pampas XV have resulted in elite players emerging from more parts of the country. Unlike before 2007, there is now a virtual nation wide system which facilitates the development of players from a young age. Indeed many of the players to have come through and play for Argentina at the IRB Junior World Championship and for Los Pampas XV are from the interior. It is an indication of progress and with the PladAR centres in Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza, Rosario and Tucumán possibly to be joined by a new one in Salta there is reason to believe that the future will be brighter. Indeed former captain and IRB Hall of Famer Agustín Pichot has been having talks with senior government officials to open a national High Development Sports Centre for rugby. In conjunction with the UAR utilizing all these, and other, Argentine cities to host test rugby it is an exciting time and, indeed, provides further backing to the idea of Argentina hosting Rugby World Cup 2023.

The next step is for Argentina to enter Super Rugby and one team is simply not enough. The UAR must act to have two teams with one being Buenos Aires, or Los Aguilas, and the other based inland, possibly in Tucumán or Córdoba and taking the name of Los Pampas. There is a divide within the Argentine sporting context which makes this entirely plausible. In the meantime the authorities can look to the Australian Rugby League context. The sport has a World Cup and a vibrant professional competition in Australia but is concentrated heavily in Sydney. The biggest event in the calender is arguably the State of Origin which features an annual three match series between the states of New South Wales and Queensland. Prior to that in New South Wales there is a trial match called City v Country which calls upon the best from Sydney against the best New South Wales players from outside of the city.

Argentina could look at replicating this by having a city v country match in the form of Buenos Aires v the interior, or Los Aguilas v Pampas. It would be based on origin and there is reason to believe that it could be successful as a model between now and 2016. Rather than have Los Pumas face a touring side such as Stade Français or the New South Wales Barbarians (Waratahs) as in 2012 and 2013 there could be a two match series in the lead-up to the Rugby Championship which would feature the best players from the city and country face-off. It would be highly marketable and in addition to simplifying the transition to Super Rugby it would act as a Pumas trial. Like in Australia all players, regardless of where they play, could be considered eligible based on their origin of being born or raised in the city or country.

Based on 2013 the teams could be as follows:

Aguilas (City)      Pampas (Country)
Marcos Ayerza (Leicester, England)
Nahuel Lobo (Entre Rios & Unattached)
Agustín Creevy (Worcester, England)
Eusebio Guiñazú (Mendoza & Bath, England)
Francisco G. Kodela (Biarritz, France)
Juan Figallo (Salta & Montpellier, France)
Mariano Galarza (Worcester, England)
Manuel Carizza (Rosario & Stormers, RSA)
Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
Julio Farías Cabello (Tucumán)
Tomás De La Vega (C.U.B.A)
Benjamín Macome (Tucumán)
Pablo Matera (Leicester, England)
Juan Leguizamón ( Sant. Del Estero & Lyon, France)
Juan Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
Leonardo Senatore (Rosario & Worcester, England)
Tomás Cubelli (Belgrano Athletic)
Nicolás Vergallo (Rosario & Lyon, France)
Juan M. Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
Nicolás Sánchez (Tucumán & Bordeaux, France)
Lucas González Amorosino (Oyonnax, France)
Martín Bustos Moyano (Córdoba & Bayonne, France)
Santiago Fernández (Bayonne, France)
Javier Rojas (Tucumán & Uni. Tucumán)
Marcelo Bosch (Saracens, England)
Gabriel Ascárate (Tucumán & Glasgow, Scotland)
Gonzalo Camacho (Leicester, England)
Matías Orlando (Tucumán & Huirapuca))
Santiago Cordero (Regatas)
Martín Rodríguez (Rosario & Stade Français, France)

Mártín Garcia Veiga (CR&C)
Santiago Iglesias Valdez (Tucumán & Uni. Tucumán)
Francisco N. T. Chaparro (Dragons, Wales)
Matíaz Díaz (Mendoza & Highlanders, New Zealand)
Bruno Postiglioni (La Plata)
Maximilano Bustos (S. Fé & Montpellier, Fra)
Tomás Lavanini (Racing Métro, France)
Matías Alemanno (Córdoba & La Tablada)
Tomás Leonardí (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Facundo Isa (Tucumán & Toulon, France)
Martín Landajo (C.A.S.I)
Pedro Imhoff (Rosario & Duendes)
Benjamín Urdapilleta (Oyonnax, France)
Patricio Fernández (Rosario & Duendes)
Gonzalo Tiesi (Newcastle, England)
Axel Muller (Mendoza & Marista)

1 comment:

  1. I think that is a brilliant idea Paul. Those state of origin matches( for anyone who watches league ) can often be crackers.
    But I think in the case of ARG they should be used more as stepping stones for lesser known domestic players to establish themselves.
    This kind of match after the now to be revived national club champs would be ideal.

    Loffreda is currently coaching BA in the provincial champs. With Imhoff ( Jaun's dad ) or another coach, coaching the interior it could be a treat.

    The euro based players would never get on board IMO!

    BTW , Alemmano instead of Farias at lock and Ramiro Moyano instead of Muller!
    Put Farias back at 6.