|Photo de Rugby|
Known as being one of the leading second-rowers in global rugby Toulouse and Argentine number five Patricio Albacete has ended the silence in coming out to declare that current Headcoach Daniel Hourcade and former captain Agustín Pichot have both lied about why Albacete and others have not been selected for the 2014 Rugby Championship. In seeking to set the record straight Pato Albacete has made public what, in his view, actually took place behind the scenes. In the words of Albacete 'I prefer to tell the truth as to why they haven't selected me.' As it currently stands Albacete is one of five regular Pumas excluded from the Rugby Championship squad. His strong words speaking out against Argentine rugby management may cost him not only a place in the team but a spot in the World Cup.
Upon announcing Argentina's squad for the June internationals against Ireland and Scotland Los Pumas Headcoach Daniel Hourcade explained that the purpose of the matches was to identify and give game time to players with the potential of playing for Argentina in the World Cup. In order for Argentina to repeat the heroics of 2007 Hourcade believes Argentina needs forty players of the required standard for the tournament.
The stated policy meant that those based in Argentina were to have priority and Hourcade would not be calling home players for the series that would return to Europe rather than play in the Rugby Championship. There were consequently no places for the likes of Martín Bustos Moyano, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Benjamín Urdapilleta and others whom had been a part of June squads under Santiago Phelan.
Leaving them out was Hourcade's answer to the bigger picture of building for the long term by enabling names such as Lucas Noguera Paz, Gabriel Ascárate and Santiago Cordero the chance of starting as they, indeed, could all be in the Rugby Championship squad. Albacete, on the other hand, remains uncertain. Together with Marcos Ayerza, Santiago Fernández, Eusebio Guiñazú and Gonzalo Tiesi Albacete's name was missing from the Rugby Championship training squad which included thirteen European based Pumas.
Albacete's non-selection followed on from his criticism of Phelan and his role in the downfall of the former Pumas coach. Albacete was said to have been backed by a number of players including Ayerza, Fernández, Guiñazú and Tiesi. All could, according to Hourcade, still be selected for the Rugby Championship. El Huevo (the egg) has left the door open to all players including Albacete whom Hourcade wanted to captain Los Pumas last November.
With Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe out injured Albacete was the obvious candidate to captain Argentina but Hourcade claims that the UAR blocked his request on the basis that it would not be appropriate to have a player central to Phelan's departure subsequently lead the team. As such Juan Manuel Leguizamón was instead given the captaincy.
Today, however, Albacete has challenged this explanation of events. He told Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion that 'the first day that we got together in London, which I believe was a Sunday, el Huevo called me, we got together in a small room near the dining room and he told me that I was a natural leader of the team and that he wanted me as captain but the UAR management refused; I didn't understand why.''
Albacete says Hourcade knew exactly why the request was declined and thus says Hourcade lied. Albacete continued to say Pichot lied too. ''There were lies in meetings that we had face to face and I can prove it.'' The Toulouse veteran remains focused on appearing in a fourth Rugby World Cup but admits that he thinks it is better to speak out now and possibly lose his spot rather than keeping quiet yet not returning to the test team.
Albacete was also vocal in criticizing the stated UAR agenda that the grand objective is Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. ''For many it (2015) was to be the culmination of our careers. to say that it was just a stage, to me it was shocking. I felt distressed. Some had the intention of writing a letter to Hourcade. I wanted to do it as a team, but given that some of the 28 did not accept it was not sent. I have played for Los Pumas since 2002; am I conflicted because I spoke out once? I want to believe that they have not excluded me because of this, that choices have not been based on non-sporting related decisions.... I am tired of reading the declarations of others that are lies. Enough! I prefer to leave, to say everything. If afterwards they don't want to select me because of wehat I have said, so be it. But lets remember how this began: defending the players that didn't have the same conditions that those have who live in Buenos Aires. If this is bad, I prefer to not play again in Los Pumas.''
Albacete also challenged the statements made by his former captain and IRB Hall of Famer Agustín Pichot. ''Only one time, after the Rugby Championship did Agustín Pichot go to Toulouse to negotiate and now we are in the same situation. When these dates are close the players ask me. The UAR does not give any information. Today there is no one in chage to negotiate. It is a lie and I spoke about it at the first meeting that we had on March 11 2012 in Paris. The UAR called Juan Fernández Lobbe, Juan Martín Fernández, Felipe Contepomi and myself; from the UAR there was Pichot, Iglesias and Manuel Galindo. They were so unprepared for the meeting.... some potential players for the Rugby Championship had questions that could not be addressed. Consequently many players were left without contracts with their clubs.''
''(With Pichot) I have a relationship much like I have with any other UAR director. We had an affinity when he was captain in 2006 and 2007. I got to know him better, I did not share certain things, I was disappointed in some attitutes or actions. We are nto at odds, but we are not friends. It took so much visibility with respect to the UAR that any criticism to be made to the UAR felt like a bullet in the chest. In the statements I made in 2012 never did I name Pichot.''
''The leadership tried to shift the focus. Instead of trying to have dialogue with the players and help the team grow the union came out and said that I was a troubled guy who was alone, that I really wanted to be the captain. I want to clarify that Corcho (Fernández Lobbe) was also aware. The first thing that I did before confirming that I would write the note was to speak with him. He was going to be present but had to go back to France one day earlier.'' Albacete therefore acted alone, but did so in confidence.
Lastly, Albacete tried to explain why the rest of the players did not want to mention the internal conflicts in the UAR. ''I think there are interests. There are many players who are my friends. They have spoken with leaders and don't want to speak out. They are afriad to have their heads cut off. I am really surprized that they have not selected ' el Toro' Ayerza. I feel that all my friends and close people want to click delete.''