Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rugby Championship: 26 man Pumas squad for South Africa

Photo UAR
Los Pumas headcoach Daniel Hourcade has named a twenty-six man squad to travel to South Africa and prepare for the opening round fixture of the 2014 Rugby Championship against the world's number two ranked country. The squad features players from the training squad that has been warming-up in matches against Grenoble. In relation to the players from yesterday's fixture in Catamarca five players have been left out. Juan Martín Hernández and Lucas Noguera Paz are both returning despite having not been involved in Catamarca. Ten of the twenty-six players are yet to take to the field in a Rugby Championship match.    


August 16 will see Argentina debuting in the 2014 Rugby Championship and like in 2012 and 2013 it will be a test match against the Springboks in South Africa. The organizing body of the Rugby Championship has maintained the same fixture format throughout which, for Los Pumas, has seen matches against the Springboks in the opening two rounds followed by away matches in Oceania and lastly home matches in rounds five and six against New Zealand and Australia.

In an effort to overturn the lackluster performances in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2012 and 2013 Daniel Hourcade has changed the game plan and the team will be flying earlier to South Africa and be spending more time at altitude than under Santiago Phelan. Hourcade has also arranged for a friendly fixture in South Africa. 

In addition to the injured Benjamín Macome Hourcade has left out seven others who were named in the squad for the Rugby Championship. Those not selected for the round one fixtures are second-rower Guido Petti, back-rower Tomás De la Vega and Javier Ortega Desio, centres Jerónimo De La Fuente, Matías Moroni and Matías Orlando and fullback Santiago Cordero. All are players to have come through the PladAR system and remain uncapped in the Rugby Championship.

Hourcade has opted for two hookers with Agustín Creevy set to captain Los Pumas for the first time at test level. Providing cover will be Matías Cortese who has never previously been involved in a senior squad at full strength. Joining them in the front-row will be five props with Marcos Ayerza and Ramiro Herrera being the likely starting together with Creevy. 

Ayerza joined the squad late with Lucas Noguera Paz having been given opportunities and, overall, having done well. Noguera Paz is now set to be the reserve loosehead prop while Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro will be covering tighthead prop and Bruno Postiglioni covers all three front-row positions. The tighthead position will be under pressure with both Juan Figallo and Maximilano Bustos out of the tournament though injury. Hourcade has also not selected Juan Pablo Orlandi or Matías Díaz.

Also missing are second-rowers Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza. The veteran pairing has been left out with Hourcade set to start Tomás Lavanini and Mariano Galarza together. Both players have displayed impressive performances in the recent matches against Grenoble and Lavanini was, arguably, a better performer than Carizza in the June internationals against Ireland and Scotland. Matías Alemanno is the third second-rower and will debut in the Rugby Championship should be receive game time.

A total of five back-rower have been selected with Rodirigo Báez being the only player not based in Europe. He has been selected ahead of Tomás De la Vega while the other four are all returning from the 2014 Rugby Championship. The likely starting combination in Pretoria is to be Pablo Matera, Juan Martín Fernaández Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamón. Leonardo Senatore or Báez will thus likely be named on the bench.

Martín Landajo and Tomás Cubelli continue to be the only two scrumhalves selected over the past twelve months. Landajo continues to be the preferred starting option and should for a halves combination with Nicolás Sánchez who is one of Hourcade's most trusted players. Santiago Gohnzález Iglesias is set to wear the number 22 shirt as cover for both fly half and inside centre. 

González Iglesias is in the squad in place of Santiago Fernández who remains in France as does Benjamín Urdapilleta. Hourcade opted against selecting either player in June or thereafter and is instead set to start Juan Martín Hernández at inside centre. Hernández is one of just two centres named in the squad after Jerónimo De la Fuente was left out. Hourcade is interested in having two distributors in the backline which explains the selection.

Joining Hernández in mid-field is going to be Marcelo Bosch who was considered to be the best performing back in Argentina's squad last year. With there being no cover for Bosch in a specialist Hourcade is instead likely to utilize Horacio Agulla on the bench as a utility replacement covering not only his natural position of wing but also outside centre and fullback.

In addition to Agulla Hourcade has Manuel Montero and Juan Imhoff as wingers in his squad. Both are left wingers as is Lucas González Amorosino who has been selected as a fullback that can play wing. Against Grenoble Hourcade started Montero on the left wing and Imhoff on the right and the same combination is likely against South Africa. Missing is Gonzalo Camacho who is yet to play again since injurying a shoulder against the All Blacks last September.

Completing the squad is Joaquín Tuculet who has been Hourcade's preference at fullback. Like Montero, Imhoff and González Amorosino Tuculet is left-footed. Imhoff was used by Phelan as back-up to Agulla and Camacho while González Amorosino also started tests on the wing ahead of the Racing Métro star. Change is therefore imminent. Moreover neither Montero nor Tuculet have taken to the field in a Rugby Championship fixture.

The team is to depart Buenos Aires on Wednesday August 6 flying from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery to São Paulo and connecting to South Africa. They are to arrive in Pretoria on Thursday, nine days before the Rugby Championship test match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.    

Player
Position
Club
Matías Cortese
Hooker
Liceo, Cuyo
Agustín Creevy
Hooker
Worcester, England
Marcos Ayerza
Prop
Leicester, England
Ramiro Herrera
Prop
Castres, France
Lucas Noguera Paz
Prop
Lince, Tucumán
Bruno Postiglioni
Prop
La Plata, URBA
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Prop
La Plata, URBA
Matías Alemanno
Second-row
La Tablada, Córdoba
Mariano Galarza
Second-row
Gloucester, England
Tomás Lavanini
Second-row
Racing Métro, France
Rodrigo Báez
Back-row
Liceo, Cuyo
Juan Fernández Lobbe
Back-row
Toulon, France
Juan Manuel Leguizamón
Back-row
Lyon, France
Pablo Matera
Back-row
Leicester, England
Leonardo Senatore
Back-row
Worcester, England
Tomás Cubelli
Scrumhalf
Belgrano, URBA
Martín Landajo
Scrumhalf
CASI, URBA
Santiago González Iglesias
Fly half
Alumni, URBA
Nicolás Sánchez
Fly half
Unattached
Marcelo Bosch
Centre
Saracens, England
Juan Martín Hernández
Centre
Unattached
Horacio Agulla
Wing
Bath, England
Juan Imhoff
Wing
Racing Métro, France
Manuel Montero
Wing
Pucará, URBA
Lucas González Amorosino
Fullback
Unattached
Joaquín Tuculet
Fullback
Unattached

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