Friday, May 16, 2014

Top 14: Santiago Fernández signs two-year deal with Bayonne

Photo AB Rugby
On the back of a highly impressive debut season for Bayonne Argentine flyhalf / inside centre Santiago Fernández has secured his playing future. The twenty-eight year old has signed a new two year contract with the Basque club whom he joined as a medical joke in October. The deal means that Fernández will not play for Los Pumas in the upcoming home internationals against Ireland and Scotland. 

Capped thirty-two times by Argentina Santiago Fernández has been a permanent feature in the team since making his debut against France in November 2008. Having come off the bench in the narrow loss in Marseilles Fernández found himself playing fly-half the following weekend at Croke Park in Dublin as Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martín Hernández were both forced out of the final test of the year. 

Fernández subsequently became a main stay, starting at both fly half and inside centre throughout 2009 and 2010 and entering Rugby World Cup 2011 as Argentina's leading inside centre only to play fly half in every match but the opening fixture against England. Since 2011 Fernández has been used at inside centre and is expected to be utilized in the position in 2014 as the World Cup draws closer. 

Part of what attracted Bayonne to Fernández in 2013 was his versatility. Fernández had been Montpellier's leading inside centre throughout his 2010-2013 stay at the club. he played outside François Trinh-Duc whom he replaced at fly half when called upon to do so as was the case during the 2012-2013 Heineken Cup where Fernández saw the club reach the Quarter Finals. 

Bayonne signed Fernández after the club had already obtain the reputable former Super Rugby player Stephen Brett whom had, at one stage, been close to All Black selection. With Bayonne losing matches and Brett not adapting Fernández was moved from outside centre to fly half for the vital final four matches in which the club only lost once to avoid relegation. 

In total Fernández played seventeen Top 14 matches for Bayonne this season, starting fourteen of them. On no occasion was he left out of the team and he remained injury free. He directed play well to prevent the Basque club from relegation but in securing Bayonne's survival he will miss out on playing for Argentina in June he will also not be able to play for Argentina after Rugby World Cup 2015 due to the UAR adopting new laws prohibiting those based outside of Argentina or Super Rugby from international duty.

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