Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rugby Championship: Nicolás Sanchez and Santiago González Iglesias impressive defensive work against Scotland

Photo UAR
Two players named by Los Pumas Headcoach Daniel Hourcade in Argentina's training squad for the Rugby Championship are fly halves Nicolás Sánchez and Santiago González Iglesias. The pair have experience playing under Hourcade for the Pampas XV and also both featured for Argentina in the 2014 tests thus far against Chile, Uruguay, Ireland and Scotland. Both players may be fly halves but they demonstrated impressive tackling in terms of courage and technique in the recent home series against Ireland and Scotland. The pairing were, aside from Juan Martín Hernández, the only specialist fly halves selected by Hourcade.   

In the old days the fly half was traditionally not expected to be much of a tackler. However that has changed in the professional era where the likes of Henry Honiball of South Africa and Jonny Wilkinson of England revolutionising the position, they were no longer the weaklings that previously occupied the position and more than just adequate but good brave defenders in their own right. In an increasingly physical age of the sport, old fashioned non tackling defensive weak links at fly half such as Luciano Orquera and Ronan O'Gara increasingly get exposed by top teams.

It was partly due to these reasons that Argentina never really backed one of the best goal kickers in world rugby in Federico Todeschini for a lengthy career with him only gaining 21 caps, whilst Juan Martín Hernández and Felipe Contepomi were both known to be very good defenders. If Diego Domínguez were playing now as opposed to the 1990's, he would likely face the same issues that Todeschini did.

Contepomi who was known as a strong defender both at the tackle and the breakdown, and evidence of a more modern fly half following on from him was in evidence last Friday against Scotland.

The Pumas 10/12 combination of Nicolás Sanchez and Santiago González Iglesias are both primarily fly halves by trade, they both occupied two of the positions where you're required to make the most front on tackles and between them made 25 tackles with 0 missed. Only flanker Javier Ortega Desio made more tackles than González Iglesias.

It wasn't just that they made their tackles though, but they were pretty effective. We saw Sanchez win 2 penalties for holding on at the breakdown, one of which created 3 points for himself to kick. In the previous era many kicking fly halves were there to kick what others had created for them, there would be next to no times that someone like O'Gara could win a penalty from a defensive situation.

We also saw González Iglesias following on from a couple of weeks ago where he drove back the much bigger number 8 Jamie Heaslip 10 metres, chop down the Scottish attacker on the gainline.

(Video: Sanchez's good defensive performance against Scotland)

(Video: González Iglesias' chop tackle that leads to a turnover)

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