Wednesday, May 14, 2014

International Rugby: Pumas Coming Home

Photo Rugby Champagne
Sánchez is free to face Ireland
The test calendar will be checked for the first time by Argentina in 2014 this weekend as the leading South American rugby nation faces Uruguay in an away test match in Paysandú. Involved in the match are going to be Gabriel Ascárate and Francisco Nahuel Tetez Chaparro, two players involved in the 2013-2014 Rabo Direct Pro 12.  Both have returned home to Argentina as have other professionals based abroad. In the coming weeks the status of more Pumas players is to be confirmed.

Argentina has struggled to impress at home in June internationals since Rugby World Cup 2011. Although Los Pumas did defeat both Italy and France in June 2012 and also knock-over Georgia in June 2013 Los Pumas were on the losing side of severe losses against France and England. With players based abroad unable to play in both June and the Rugby Championship former coach Santiago Phelan fielded depleted teams that suffered three heavy losses.

Players will again be unavailable for the June tests starting in three weeks time but the quantity of players missing is to be dramatically reduced. The reason being that many players are returning to Argentina off contract as their market value has dropped directly as a result of missing out on pre-season training and the first two months of the European club season.

Daniel Hourcade is consequently set to have access to some players that missed out in either June 2012, June 2013 or both. The exact make-up of the squad will not be confirmed until later on this month but a possible team to face Ireland could very well include players off contract in the Rabo Direct Pro 12, Aviva Premiership and Top 14 in addition to players involved in the same competitions who will not play in the Rugby Championship.

To date four players from the 2013 Rugby Championship squad who missed out on playing against England in June are confirmed as being off-contract and will be free to face the Irish. Fly half Nicolás Sánchez is back in Tucumán and highly likely to be playing at fly half. Sánchez has returned from Bordeaux-Begles as have Rafael Carballo and Joaquín Tuculet. Of the two Tuculet is a strong candidate for selection covering fullback, wing and outside centre.

Like Sánchez Tululet is back in Argentina chasing a place in Hourcade's team. Also back is the twenty-nine time capped Lucas González Amorosino who was last available for international duty in a June series in 2010. González Amorosino has returned from France and is free to play for El Huevo's team if selected. Also avaliable is first choice hooker since Rugby World Cup 2011, Eusebio Guiñazú. The veteran hooker's time with Bath has concluded.

Back-rowers Pablo Matera and Benjamín Macome both started tests under Hourcade in November and both could start against Ireland. Whether they will or not will depend on whether their contracts, which make then free to play, will be extended or not. Santiago Fernández and Nahuel Lobo are in similar situations with both having joined French clubs as medical jokers this season. 

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