Friday, December 20, 2013

Retro Friday - Argentina v Italy, Rugby World Cup 1987

Argentina entered Rugby World Cup 1987 looking, on paper, as being likely to advance to the Quarter Finals. Although Los Pumas were in the same Pool as the All Blacks the two other opponents were sides which the South Americans were expected to defeat. 

The World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand in May and June of 1987 and the results achieved by Argentina in previous years certainly indicated that Los Pumas could cause some damage. It all went horribly wrong, however, as despite having competed to a 21-21 draw against New Zealand in November 1985 and then having defeated France 15-13 in Los Pumas´ following test match six months later Argentina would open the World Cup with a poor performance in losing 28-9 against Fiji.

The result suggested Argentina´s elimination at the pool stage but there was still hope of advancing if Argentina could complete a good win over Italy four days later in Christchurch and also score tries against the All Blacks. Argentina also needed not only to defeat the Italians also needed Italy to subsequently defeat Fiji. Everything was therefore on the line for the match against Italy as a loss would mean Argentina would have been eliminated with a game in hand. The even contest saw both teams score two tries and the boot of Hugo Porta contribute seventeen crucial points as Argentina won 25-16. 

Italy was then able to assist the South Americans as the Europeans completed a 18-15 win over Fiji which saw the Pacific Islanders score only one try. With the three sides completing one win and one loss against each other it meant that the second places side, behind New Zealand, would be determined by tries as there was no bonus point system in place at the time. Fiji also only scored once against the All Blacks but in scoring four against Argentina Fiji finished in second place in the pool as Italy scored five tries in the tournament and Argentina four. 

The match against Fiji was therefore one of the biggest failures in the history of Argentine rugby. What should have been a win was instead a heavy defeat and one lacking tries which cost Argentina a place in the Quarter Finals against France whom the South Americans had enjoyed success against. The Italian assignment was made tough not only by the three day turn-around but also by unease in the Pumas camp. The most notable point though was, indeed, the schedule which saw  New Zealand have greater rest time than all other teams as it enjoyed two more days than Argentina and three more than Fiji. 

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