Thursday, March 20, 2014

Super Rugby: Pichot reaffirms eligibility for Pumas

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Former Argentine rugby captain Agustín Pichot continues with his quest to have professionalism in his country. In searching for a way to guarantee the future of his country as a competitive force the former international scrumhalf has reaffirmed that starting in 2016 international duty will be closed to players based in Europe.

An official announcement is yet to be made from SANZAR but Argentina´s admission into the Southern Hemisphere competition is assured. Both Australia and New Zealand have agreed to the new format while South Africa is to do so at the end of this month. As such Los Pampas XV will become a Super Rugby Franchise and will debut in the 2016 competition. The team is to consist of the best Argentine players though not all Pumas will need to be playing for the team to be eligible for international duty. 

Moving forward the UAR requires the signatures of players to have a competitive teams made up of a combination of those currently involved in the Pacific Cup and Pumas based abroad, mainly in England and France. To assure that the Argentine side is competitive and that the test side will not suffer the same problems from June 2012 and June 2013 the UAR is to only consider players for international duty who play their rugby either in Argentina or for a rival Super Rugby franchise.

During yesterday´s conference to farewell  outgoing UAR president Luis Castillo, Pichot explained that the players based abroad all know of the situation. Some, however, are contracted to remain in Europe beyond Rugby World Cup 2015. Veterans Juan Fernández Lobbe and Patricio Albacete will be playing for Toulon and Toulouse, Gonzalo Camacho will be playing for Leicester, Juan Imhoff for Racing Métro and Juan Figallo for Montpellier.

There are, nonetheless, realistic chances that a number of these players could join the likes of Mariano Galarza, Agustín Creevy and Marcelo Bosch in returning to Argentina at the completion of the 2014-2015 season. Imhoff has been linked to a move to Stade Français to leave his Racing Métro contract early and then play Super Rugby in 2016 while Montpellier is far from happy with Figallo´s extensive involvement in the Rugby Championship. 

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