Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rugby Championship: Thirteen European Pumas selected

Photo La Capital
Pato Albacete has been dropped
Los Pumas Headcoach Daniel Hourcade has named the first thirteen players that are to be a part of Argentina's squad for the 2014 Rugby Championship. Included are seven players based in France and six based in England, some of whom are to contest the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 finals next weekend. The players will travel to the USA for high performance training in Pensacola, Florida. Most notable of all, however, is not who has been selected but who has not. Four big name players have all been dropped as Hourcade has excluded Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza, Santiago Fernández and Gonzalo Tiesi. Their exclusion is a combination of each player either not playing to the required standards, not having an attitude which satisfies Hourcade or both.     

The thirteen players selected by Hourcade cover a diverse variety of positions but it is the back-row which is the most widely represented. So much so that Hourcade has included four - the same total number of backs. The four, Juan Fernández Lobbe, Juan Leguizamón, Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore, are all returning as are second-rowers Mariano Galarza and Tomás Lavanini while there are changes in the front-row.

Having only moved to France last month Castres' new tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera has been selected by Hourcade. The uncapped front-rower is to be joined by and Maximilano Bustos and Agustín Creevy. The selection of Bustos comes despite him being unlikely to play in the Rugby Championship after having been diagnosed with a career threatening injury this past week.

The selection of Bustos is therefore of extreme note as his participation in the Southern Hemispheric tournament is highly unlikely. Another player in doubt is Saracens' new signing Juan Figallo. The leading Argentine tighthead prop has not been selected thus confirming that he is out of the picture. Also excluded is last year's starting loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza who is one of four notable fit players left out by Hourcade. 

Together with Patricio Albacete, Santiago Fernández and Gonzalo Tiesi Ayerza will not play in the Rugby Championship. Of note is that all four are on contract in Europe beyond Rugby World Cup 2015. Indeed, Hourcade has made it clear that he will not be selecting any players based in the north after the World Cup. 

As conclusive as this may at first appear it is not the genuine reason for the non-selection of the four players. Hourcade has, after all, selected players, including Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Juan Imhoff and Ramiro Herrera, who are also contracted to French clubs for the 2015-2016 season. What differentiates these players from those not selected is two deeper factors - the attitude of the player and  / or the performance.

Albacete was the vice-captain in 2012 but after having led the coup d'etat which saw a lack of unity in the Pumas squad and the resignation of Santiago Phelan last October Hourcade has opted against selecting the fifty-seven time capped Toulouse second-rower. Fernández and Ayerza were suggested as being in the anti-Phelan camp but they have also not been selected due to neither player performing at their peak levels. 

Tiesi, in 2014, has also not been the same player as from previous years. In 2009-2010 he was arguably the leading outside centre in the Aviva Premiership. Hourcade has left him out but gone for both Marcelo Bosch and Horacio Agulla, players who started in Tiesi's position in November. Also selected are Racing Métro's Juan Martín Hernández and Juan Imhoff who were both in impressive form in the final rounds of the Top 14. 



In addition to the four notable absentees Hourcade has not selected Props Nahuel Lobo and Juan Pablo Orlandi nor hooker Eusebio Guiñazú. All played in the 2012 and 2013 Rugby Championships under Phelan as did Gonzalo Camacho who, like Figallo, is injured. 

Hourcade has therefore opened the door for players se to face Chile this Sunday and both Ireland and Scotland next month to impress to earn a spot in the squad for the Rugby Championship. Seven players with very strong chances of being selected are Lucas González Amorosino, Gabriel Ascárate, Manuel Carizza, Matiás Díaz, Benjamín Macome, Nicolás Sánchez, Joaquín Tuculet who have all been playing professional rugby either in Europe or in Super Rugby this season.

González Amorosino, Ascárate, Sánchez and Tuculet will all start against Chile on Sunday.

Player
Club
Union
Position
Horacio Agulla
Bath
England
Wing, Centre
Marcelo Bosch
Saracens
England
Centre
Maximilano Bustos
Montpellier
France
Tighthead Prop
Agustín Creevy
Worcester Warriors
England
Hooker
Juan Fernández Lobbe
Toulon
France
Back-row
Mariano Galarza
Gloucester
England
Second-row
Juan Martín Hernández
Racing Métro
France
Fullback, Fly half
Ramiro Herrera
Castres
France
Tighthead Prop
Juan Imhoff
Racing Métro
France
Wing
Tomás Lavanini
Racing Métro
France
Second-row
Juan Manuel Leguizamón
Lyon
France
Back-row
Pablo Matera
Leicester Tigers
England
Back-row
Leonardo Senatore
Worcester Warriors
England
Back-row

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