|FOTO: Pablo Gasparini/UAR|
History was made in Argentina on Saturday afternoon as Ireland won a test match in the country for the first time. Ireland's 29-17 victory saw the European champions go 1-0 up in the two test series and the Celtic nation has the opportunity to return home with a rare series victory away next weekend as the teams are set to meet in the rugby stronghold of Tucumán. Ireland performed well in Resistencia but the real story of the day was arguably the improvement demonstrated by Argentina in comparison to the opening home fixture twelve months earlier.
In June 2013 former Pumas Headcoach Santiago Phelan selected the leading European based Argentine players who he did not want for the Rugby Championship. The result was international starts for Belisario Agulla, Martín Bustos Moyano, Pablo Henn, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Esteban Lozada, Guillermo Roán and Benjamín Urdapilleta - players not required for international duty at other times of the year.
New Headcoach Daniel Hourcade disagreed with the approach and thus created his own, Hourcadism. In looking for long term success and not short term benefits Hourcade did not select any European based players that he will not have full-access to in the Rugby Championship. The former Pampas XV Headcoach has combined his leading players from the IRB Pacific Cup with returning players from Europe and is not wasting any time.
The side that faced Ireland was similar to the teams which faced Chile and Uruguay last month. Hourcade planned for Ireland by using the games as match practice. Phelan did otherwise and consequently saw a badly prepared Pumas side got badly beaten twice by England. Hourcadism acts to create continuity and evidence from Resistencia would suggest that Argentina is in a better chance of winning a test against a leading rugby playing nation in 2014 than 2013.
Of Argentina's team four could arguably be considered as first choice players - Manuel Carizza, Martín Landajo, Nicolás Sánchez and Manuel Montero who was able to break tackles and gain space. Such work required of a winger was regularly lacking under Phelan as an unclear game plan saw strategies change from match to match and the use of too many players prevented the establishment of a foundation.
Ireland's team was not at full strength but was not denied players like Argentina. Thirteen Pumas already named for the Rugby Championship did not play while others expected to be added did also not face the Irish who were missing Gordon D'Arcy, Sean O'Brian, Peter O'Mahony, Cian Healy and Tommy Bowe. The side was otherwise Ireland's best team. Hourcadism is therefore showing signs of success as the European champions won by three tries to two and did so with an interception try.
Argentina's two tries were scored by Montero and Tomás De la Vega, former Argentina under 20 players to have developed through the PladAR system and to done so by playing under Hourcade. De la Vega was one of Argentina's bright prospects after he produced a man of the match performance in Córdoba in Argentina's home win over France in June 2015. Phelan, though, subsequently dropped him for the Rugby Championship.
De la Vega together with Tomás Lavanini and Benjamín Macome led the statistics in Resistencia. De la Vega made fifteen tackles, Lavanini fourteen and Macome twenty-one. All three demonstrated their abilities as long term options for Argentina, something notably different to many recalled from Europe last June to face England. Macome appears to be Argentina's leading number 8 with both Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe being more suited to the side of the scrum.
With Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore also set to feature in the Rugby Championship and Rodrigo Báez also having had a good match against Ireland Hourcade would appear to have a set of competent players for all back-row positions. Unfortunately, however, Macome will not play again for quite some time. The Stade Français medical joker fractured his left arm against Ireland and is now out for two-three months.
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Tomás De la Vega, 6 Rodrigo Baez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Matías Cortese, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
16 Julian Montoya, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino
Tries: Montero, De la Vega
Conversion: Sánchez, Iglesias
15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden
Tries: Henry, Sexton, Trimble
Penalties: Sexton (2), Madigan (2)
Penalties: Sexton (2), Madigan (2)