Friday, June 27, 2014

Los Pumas: Agustín Creevy confirmed as New Captain

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A change in leadership for Argentina's national rugby team, Los Pumas, has seen Headcoach Daniel Hourcade selecting 29 year old hooker Agustín Creevy as the man to lead the South American country in the Rugby Championship and beyond. Capped twenty-eight times by Argentina the former San Luis de La Plata back-rower turned hooker is a natural leader and one who Hourcade knows very well through working together with the Pampas XV whom Creevy captained to the 2011 Vodacom Cup title in South Africa. 

Creevy had been widely expected to be Argentina's starting hooker after Rugby World Cup 2011. With the retirement of Mario Ledesma Creevy was Argentina's best placed hooker but injury in a warm-up fixture ahead of the first Rugby Championship saw him miss the opening fixtures opening the door for Eusebio Guiñazú. Creevy was subsequently used by Phelan as Argentina's second-choice hooker which meant the Argentine front-row was very powerful in the scrum but severely lacked mobility around the park.  

The styles of play of Guiñazú and Creevy are extremely different. Guiñazú is a versatile front-rower capable of playing in all three positions and is arguably a natural prop. His first ten test caps from 2003-2005 were all as a prop and he started the two tests against France in the position in June 2012. His subsequent eighteen test caps all came as hooker with Creevy only starting once throughout this period. 

The retention of Guiñazú was not an altogether popular decision. Many questioned it in a common manner - Guiñazú appeared to be a third prop and thus slowed down play rather than give Argentina a similar edge which sides have with natural hookers of the twenty-first century variety. Indeed the changing nature of the position is such that a world class hooker today is much more of a fourth back-rower than he is a third prop.

Creevy falls into the opposite category and is, in fact, a back-rower turned hooker. Two years before his first professional contract he had made his debut for Argentina as a back-rower. It was in a home test match against Japan in 2005. After earning his third test cap as a replacement back-rower in a Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifier against Uruguay he joined Biarritz as a back-rower only to be converted into a hooker upon his return to Argentina. 

His fourth test cap came as a replacement against Scotland in 2009 which saw his conversion to an international hooker complete. He had impressed Daniel Hourcade who, crucially, was in charge of the Pampas XV which were to debut in the Vodacom Cup several months later. Hourcade named Creevy as his captain for the first two seasons before Creevy made a highly successful move to Montpellier and held down a starting position. After two years he moved to his current club, the Worcester Warriors.

The second hooker in the squad is Matías Cortese who is closer to the Guiñazú variety than that of Creevy. His selection is therefore of extreme note considering Hourcade has not selected Guiñazú. While Guiñazú could still be called up it is not likely as his international career now appears to be over. Hourcade has also not selected Julio Farías Cabello who was a mainstay under Phelan and captained the Pampas XV following Creevy's move to France.  

The appointment of Creevy as captain comes eight months later than had been the intention. upon replacing Santiago Phelan last October Daniel Hourcade was to have Creevy lead the team on its European ahead of Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe who had been injured playing for Toulon. Instead, though, Juan Manuel Leguizamón was given the captaincy after Creevy was also injured which saw him miss out and Eusebio Guiñazú retain the hooker position due to Creevy's non-availability. 

With Creevy unable to represent Argentina in the June internationals against Ireland and Scotland Hourcade appointed the current Pampas XV captains - Martín Landajo and Tomás Cubelli. Both players are a part of the thirty-man training squad currently in Pensacola, Florida preparing for the Rugby Championship as are Fernández Lobbe and Leguizamón. Creevy is therefore going to be surrounded by a groups of strong leaders. 

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