Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rugby Championship: Marcelo Loffreda says 'Pick the Best Players'

Former Los Pumas Headcoach Marcelo Loffreda has criticized the idea of not fielding the best players for international rugby should they be free to play. The coach who took Argentina to third in the world is not in favor of the suggestions made by Daniel Hourcade and endorsed by the UAR. In Loffreda's words ''to the extent that we have the best players available we should use them.'' As it stands Hourcade could indeed have players considered as not being the best Puma in their positions starting test matches in the 2014 Rugby Championship. During his eight years as the Headcoach of Los Pumas Loffreda was constantly quoted as being severely unhappy with the treatment Argentina received from the international community as it was difficult to secure test matches and get player release. With this no longer a problem the current coach is undertaking policies which Loffreda is far from being impressed with.

In an effort to strengthen Los Pumas Daniel Hourcade has made it known that he intends on identifying and preparing forty players of the appropriate level for Argentina to have a competitive squad for Rugby World Cup 2015. Part of this process requires players to be tested against the best opposition possible, and consequently, a host of Pampas XV players are involved in the current tests v Ireland and Scotland instead of players based abroad. 

With those based in Europe playing in a season which prevents them on playing in both the June Internationals and the Rugby Championship Hourcade decided against selecting a notable number of players who have also been excluded from selection for the Rugby Championship. Players based in England, France and Scotland have therefore been overlooked which has had the effect of the current squad being weaker, in theory, than the equivalent from the 2012 and 2013 home June test matches. 

Hourcade is making up for lost time. Previous coach, Santiago Phelan, did not actively engage in developing players to the extent which would have the make-up of Argentina's squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 fairly certain. To the contrary there remain a host of unanswered questions as to who will be in the squad and in an effort to leave no stone unturned Hourcade is utilizing the time he has to do what Phelan did not.

While this explains the non-selection of players including Martín Bustos Moyano, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Tomás Leonardí, Guillermo Roan, Benjamín Urdapilleta and Nicolás Vergallo it does not account for the highly documented exclusion of Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza, Santiago Fernández and Gonzalo Tiesi. None of the four are injured yet none have been the selected for the Rugby Championship training squad which is to be enhanced after this Friday's match against Scotland in Córdoba. 

Loffreda does not agree with the concept of experimenting in the Rugby Championship. ''Doing tests with Los Pumas does not correspond... experimenting can be done with Los Pampas, with Los Jaguares, with the junior teams but to the extent that we have the best players available we should use them.'' Loffreda admits that being in Hourcade's position would be very difficult but is firm in his belief that the leading players should always take to the field whenever possible.

Loffreda also commented on Albacete Gate by saying that since he has not been directly involved he is not able to pass judgement. A lot has changed in the post-Loffreda years and the efforts of Hourcade to adapt will be viewed as success or failure depending on how Argentina performs in the Rugby Championship. What is already conclusive is that the UAR contracted the wrong person to replace the outgoing Loffreda after Rugby World Cup 2007. 

2 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more with Marcelo.

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  2. I don't know for sure but from the outside looking in, Argentinian rugby looks to be in a terrible state. They can't buy a win at the moment.

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