Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rugby Championship: Two Changes for Pumas

Photo UAR
Los Pumas headcoach Daniel Hourcade has named a lineup featuring two changes to that which started against the Springboks in Pretoria this past weekend. The alterations both come in the backs with Juan Martín Hernández and Lucas González Amorosino having been selected in place of Santiago González Iglesias and Horacio Agulla. In addition to Agulla being on the bench Bruno Postiglioni is to also do so, replacing Lucas Noguera Paz as the reserve loosehead prop. Both Nicolás Sánchez and Martín Landajo have overcome injury concerns and will start the Salta test.

Hourcade's debut Rugby Championship test match in charge of Argentina demonstrated an awareness of adapting to the needs of international rugby. The South Americans played a brand of rugby which was a combination of the traditional power-structure of a solid set-piece and combatant forward play with ball retention, improved fitness and a willingness to distribute the ball in search of creating try scoring opportunities. 

Such a game plan is vastly different to that utilized under Santiago Phelan in the two previous years of the Rugby Championship as Argentina was unable to compete with teams for the full 80 minutes. In Pretoria, on he other hand, Argentina was in with a realistic chance of equalizing up until he final play of the match.

The game plan meant South Africa played with significantly less freedom than had been the case in the opening round matches of the 2012 and 2013 Rugby Championships. Conditions meant an expansive game plan was not viable but Argentina, nonetheless did what it could with ball and hand and the visiting team got the better of the Springboks in both the scrums and lineouts. 

South Africa has responded to being outplayed in both the scrum and lineouts by dropping both Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha. Mtawarira and spectators were taken by surprize as Ramiro Herrera proved to be the latest Argentine tighthead prop to spearhead an advancing scrum. Herrera will start again despite him being uncaped before this year. He will do so due to both Juan Figallo and Maximilano Bustos being injured. 

Worcester's Agustín Creevy will captain the side from hooker with Leicester Tigers veteran Marcos Ayerza compleing the front-row at loosehead prop. Providing cover will be Matías Cortese, Bruno Postiglioni and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Behind them Mariano Galarza and Tomás Lavanini are to form the starting second-row combination with Matías Alemanno being the replacement. 

The option of Alemanno has been questioned on social media due to the non-selection of Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza, players considered as being the two best Pumas second-rowers by many. There are no such questions regarding the back-row as Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Pablo Matera hold on to their places. 

Argentina's back-row performed well  in Pretoria with the left-right combination of Matera and Fernández Lobbe giving the South Americans a competitive defensive formation which won penalties and produced turn-overs. With Benjamín Macome being sideliend with injury the replacement back-row position will again be taken by Leonardo Senatore. 

Th starting back-line received positive news with the three players in doubt all having ben cleared to start the test in Salta. As such Martín Landajo and Nicolás Sánchez are to continue their combination in the halves while Juan Martín Hernández is to make his first ever test start as an inside centre. With Hernández back Santiago González Iglesias drops out of the match-day 23 altogether as a change of tactics has seen Hourcade looking for a bench with greater impact. 

Jerónimo De la Fuente has been retained as the replacement mid-fielder which, consequently, means there is no fly half or goal-kicker on the bench.  As such a move from Hernández to 10 is a realistic opion in the second half if required. Marcelo Bosch could also move to pivot from outside-centre, the position he has adapted to with great success since being moved there by Biarritz in the 2010-2011 season. 

The Hernández-Bosch mid-field formation means Argentina is to have more distributing players than the opposition. it also means that the players defending South Africa's dangerous runners are to be renowned tacklers which provides Hourcade's game plan with added venom. 

Starting in the back-three are to be Joaquín Tuculet at fullback with Manuel Montero and Lucas González Amorosino playing on the left and right wings respectively. The attacking trio will all be in search of providing support for ball carriers at the right times to turn half-chances into tries. Hourcade, has made it no secret that he believes Argentina needs to score tries in order to win Rugby Championship matches. The side named for Salta is a reflection of a will to play well and to win.

While Hourcade has left his mark in his selection policies there are also a number of players missing due to injury. Of the Rugby Championship squad Juan Imhoff and Benjamín Macome are both out of action while Gabriel Ascárate, Gonzalo Camacho, Maximilano Bustos and Juan Figallo were all left out due to having been badly injured last season. They remain in contention for a place in the 2015 Rugby Championship and World Cup squads.

Marcos Ayerza
Leicester, England
Agustín Creevy
Worcester, England
Ramiro Herrera
Castres, France
Mariano Galarza
Gloucester, England
Tomás Lavanini
Racing Métro, France
Pablo Matera
Leicester, England
Juan Fernández Lobbe
Toulon, France
Juan Leguizamón
Lyon, France
Martín Landajo
Nicolás Sánchez
Manuel Montero
Pucurá, URBA
Juan Martín Hernández
Marcelo Bosch
Saracens, England
Lucas G Amorosino
Joaquín Tuculet
Matías Cortese
Liceo, Cuyo
Bruno Postiglioni
La Plata, URBA
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
La Plata, URBA
Matías Alemanno
La Tablada, Córdoba
Leonardo Senatore
Worcester, England
Tomás Cubelli
Belgrano, URBA
Jerónimo De la Fuente
Duendes, Rosario
Horacio Agulla
Bath, England

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