Thursday, June 5, 2014

International Rugby: Argentine Team named to face Ireland

Los Pumas Headcoach Daniel Hourcade has named his team for Argentina's first home international of 2014. Argentina will host European Champions Ireland in the northeastern city of Resistencia located in Chaco province and do so with a significantly different side to the one which faced Ireland in the previous test match between the countries in November 2012. The teams are to play for the Admiral Brown Cup pictured to the right. The Cup was named in memory of the Irish-Argentine Navy admiral who was born in Ireland and nationalized in Argentina.    

Changes in coaches and also policies have seen the arrival of Hourcadism, a notably different outlook on building a team than that utilized by Santiago Phelan. Unlike Phelan Hourcade prioritizes combinations and long term needs. As such many veteran players selected for June internationals under Phelan have been overlooked by Hourcade. 

Phelan has Martín Bustos Moyano kicking goals for Argentina last June against England but did not use the player in the Rugby Championship nor had he in the previous November or in the South American Championship. Hourcade has demonstrated that his talking last month was to be taken seriously. Players who have returned home have been rewarded as have players who were not central to the exit of Phelan. 

Six of the starting lineup are players who were involved in Super Rugby, the Top 14 or Rabo Direct Pro 12 while there is also room for former Gloucester hooker Matías Cortese who is to start in the front-row. Joining Cortese up front will be Lucas Noguera Paz and the debuting Ramiro Herrera who, together with Cortese, formed the front-row combination in the Pacific Cup championship winning Pampas XV.

Herrera subsequently joined Castres and started in the Top 14 final last weekend against Toulon. Another to have played in France is Manuel Carizza who joined the Stormers this season after previously playing for eight years in the Top 14. He will form a second-row combination with Tomás Lavanini who is to join Racing Métro next season. 

One player considered by many to have been poorly used by Phelan is Tomás De la Vega. The CUBA back-rower has been selected by Hourcade to start in the back-row with Rodrigo Báez and Stade Français' medical joker Benjamín Macome. Also of note is the selection of 2010 Junior World Championship back-rower Javier Ortega Desio as Argentina's reserve back-row specialist. 

Captaining Argentina will be Martín Landajo who will start at scrum-half ahead of Tomás Cubelli. Landajo will continue the 9-10 combination with Nicolás Sánchez that has been Argentina's first choice pairing since defeating Wales in November 2012. Outside Sánchez will be Gabriel Ascárate who, like Sánchez, is back frmo Europe and now fully available for international duty. 

Ascárate left the Glasgow Warriors earlier this year with a neck injury and has recovered fully to take his part in the starting lineup. In joining Sánchez Hourcade has named a 10-12 Tucumán combination, something rarely ever seen at international level. Jerónimo De la Fuente will play at outside centre and should he need replacing it is likely that it will mean a positional change as no mid-fielder has been named on the bench. 

Starting in the back-three will be Joaquín Tuculet at fullback and Manuel Montero and Santiago Cordero are to be the wingers. The selection of such a back-three demonstrates a desire to attack and to score tries. Tuculet was, arguably, held back by Phelan while it took the changing of coaches to see Cordero make his test debut. Montero was unlucky in 2013 to suffer a serious knee injury but is now on track to be a much needed large winger for the Rugby Championship.

With Tuculet, Montero and Cordero all starting there is no place for Lucas González Amorosino who will instead feature from the bench. González Amorosino covers all back-three positions and was in and out of the team under Phelan. His impressive form demonstrated for Montpellier was not replicted this past season for Oyonnax which partly explains Hourcade's selection.

Of the players selected five are to be playing in June internationals for the first time. Noguera Paz and veteran Cortese will be making their first appearances as will Lavanini, De la Fuente and Cordero. All have played under Hourcade previously and all have been selected in positions which Phelan had occupied with players presently not a part of the squad for the Rugby Championship.

Lucas Noguera Paz
Matías Cortese
Ramiro Herrera
Manuel Carizza
Tomás Lavanini
Rodrigo Báez
Tomás De La Veja
Benjamín Macome
Martín Landajo (c)
Nicolás Sánchez
Manuel Montero
Gabriel Ascárate
Jerónimo De La Fuente
Santiago Cordero
Joaquín Tuculet
Julian Montoya
Bruno Postiglioni
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Matías Alemanno
Javier Ortega Desio
Tomás Cubelli
Santiágo González Iglesias
Lucas González Amorosino

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