Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top 14: Matías Díaz linked to a move to Bayonne

Photo ESPN Scrum
Fresh off a season of Super Rugby for New Zealand franchise the Highlanders 21 year old Argentine international tighthead prop Matías Díaz could be the latest Argentine front-rower to be playing in the French Top 14. Reports out of Argentina indicate that Basque club Bayonne is closing in on the Mendoza prop to obtain his services. A move to Bayonne would see the young prop join up with former Pumas Santiago Fernández and Martín Bustos Moyano. The club is now coached by former Puma and Wallaby front-rower Patricio Noriega. 

Despite having just recently turned 21 a lot of attention has been placed on the seven time capped Matías Díaz due to him having made ten Super Rugby appearances and also due to serious injuries suffered by other Pumas playing in his position. Neither Juan Figallo and Maximilano Bustos are expected to play for Argentina in the 2014 Rugby Championship and Argentina is being forced to preapre for Rugby World Cup 2015 with other players in mind.

Díaz was thrust onto the international stage in 2013. Aged 20 he made his debut against Uruguay in the South American Championship and having impressed was named as the starting tighthead against South Africa in Johannesburg. He started with Figallo playing loosehead prop in place of the injured Marcos Ayerza but was subsequently left out of the team until returning to take a place on the bench for tests against Australia and Wales. 

Starting these two tests were Figallo and Bustos while Ramiro Herrera has done so for the previous two tests, both against Ireland. Díaz featured in the second test in Tucumán, replacing Herrera in the 51st minute. Without Figallo and Díaz Herrera and Díaz are Argentina's leading options at tight-head prop and they could well be the two specialists in the first squad which will play against South Africa in the opening round fixture. 

The possibility nonetheless exists for Bustos to make a return. Indeed he was one of thirteen Pumas named for the 2014 Rugby Championship. Díaz is yet to be named but is expected to be added after this Friday's test match in Córdoba against Scotland. Headcoach Daniel Hourcade has shown an interest in both Herrera and Díaz and less so in others based in Europe such as Francisco Gómez Kodela and Juan Pablo Orlandi. 

Bayonne is said to be looking to replace former All Black Neemia Tialata who has moved to Toulouse. Should Díaz indeed complete the move it would be after the completion of the current Super Rugby season and will also take place after Daniel Hourcade has confirmed his official squad for the Rugby Championship. According to sources close to the players if Díaz is selected by Hourcade he is set to turn down the offer from Bayonne.

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