Friday, March 7, 2014

Pichot argues for Super Rugby franchises to sign Argentine players

Former Pumas captain and IRB Hall of Famer Agustín Pichot has called upon Super Rugby franchises in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to sign Argentine players to their playing rosters. The former scrumhalf has the backing of followers of the Pacific Cup with the Australian media warming to Los Pampas XV following the Argentine sides wins over the A teams of the ACT Brumbies and the New South Wales Waratahs. 

Victory in Sydney over Gen Blue, the Waratahs A side, saw Argentina´s mission to be added to an expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016 come closer to being realized. Prior to the fixture the Sydney Morning Herald was prasing the performance of Los Pampas XV against the Brumbies and now The Daily Telegraph is doing likewise after the South Americans were too strong for the Waratahs earlier today. Both leading Australian media outlets are backing Los Pampas XV to succeed as a Super Rugby team as a number of the Argentine-based players in the team have demonstrated that they are of the required standard for Super Rugby. 

Both media outlets are also vibrant in talking about Agustín Pichot whom was quoted in an article published today by The Daily Telegraph. Pichot has argued a case for existing Super Rugby franchises to bolster their squads by signing Argentine players. Pichot´s quest to have professional rugby in Argentina and a structure in place which can enable Argentine to succeed at Rugby World Cups requires a solution to the lack of a global season. 

Argentina has been forced into fielding depleted sides for the purpose of international competition in June every year since Rugby World Cup 2011. Despite test matches at this since being sanctioned by the IRB the UAR has been unable to acquire all players based abroad. Indeed the downside to entering the Rugby Championship has been that over twenty players have missed out on representing Argentina in June and this will occur again this year against Ireland and Scotland. 

There has also been a slowing down in the exodus of Argentine players to Europe. With Pumas playing test rugby from August - October the return of an investment in signing a Puma is not what it once was. That is, not in Europe. Many Pumas has had to take 50% pay cuts and clubs have not been as willing to sign as previously. Santiago Fernández had been a solid player for Montpellier but now pays for Bayonne as a medical joker while Manuel Carizza left Biarritz for one season at Racing Métro and now plays in South Africa. With the money on offer not being what it previously was the prospects of playing in Super Rugby are all the more appealing. But it has never been the motivation of the players according to Pichot who has long held firm in saying that the vast majority want to play professional rugby at home. 

Pichot would like others to act like the Stormers and acquire Pumas. He also wants clubs to have Pumas when Argentina is in fact a part of Super Rugby. Argentina is to have up to forty players under contract and Pichot contends that other players can play for rival Super Rugby sides. With a number of Argentine players involved in the Rugby Championship being based in Argentina Pichot´s claims certainly have empirical backing. The next step, according to Pichot is to alter the restictions that make it hard for foreigners to play in the competition.  

Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe agrees with Pichot. The Toulon back-rower will not be a part of the Argentine Super Rugby side due to his age. Fernández Lobbe is to be 34 at the time and is likely to retire from international rugby at the completion of Rugby World Cup 2015. The current Heineken Cup champion has told members of Los Pampas to look for opportunities in Super Rugby rather than in Europe.

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