Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Los Pumas: Five Players who Hourcade could Call-Up for November

Photo UAR
The selection policy of Daniel Hourcade in the 2014 Rugby Championship was that of a coach putting faith in his players as a squad more so than a starting XV. Argentina, consequently, had some players rotated depending on the opposition and almost all squad members were given match time. Injuries meant that in addition to the original thirty-man squad two others were ultimately utilized, thus giving Argentina a squad of thirty-two in the four nation tournament. These players are the names expected to be released shortly by Hourcade for the November tests against Scotland, Italy and France. Who, therefore, are the players that could join them? Quite possibly the answer will come not from Europe but from home.

Of the squad named for the Rugby Championship all players except Matías Orlando, Tomás de La Vega and Santiago Cordero received game time. Orlando was forced out with a series injury while De la Vega missed out due to Benjamín Macome recovering from a broken arm in time to fill the void of the injured Pablo Matera and Hourcade determining that Rodrigo Báez and Javier Ortega Desio merited opportunities. 

The back-row selection was justified as Báez and Ortega Desio had fine performances in Mendoza. Consequently the selection of a back-rower playing abroad such as Tomás Leonardí (Edinburgh) or Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Benetton Treviso) is not likely. Even with Pablo Matera injured and Juan Manuel Leguizamón yet to play since getting injured changes to the back-row are highly unlikely.

Santiago Cordero
In the Mendoza test Juan Imhoff and Lucas González Amorosino were the wingers with Joaquín Tuculet playing at the back. With the squad also including Horacio Agulla and Manuel Montero Hourcade released Cordero to play for Regatas and subsequently the Pumas Sevens team. Cordero, however, is a very strong chance at playing in November and should do so. Gonzalo Camacho will remain outside of the squad due to his shoulder surgery complications.

Guido Petti
The one-match suspension of Tomás Lavanini during the Rugby Championship did not see a recall for either Manuel Carizza or Patricio Albacete. Rather Hourcade had Mariano Galarza being joined by Matías Alemanno in the second-row and Benjamín Macome entering the bench as cover. The move meant a specialist backrower was utilized rather than calling-upon a professional based abroad. 

For November, however, this ought to change. With Galarza having taken a hard knock to his shoulder in Mendoza an additional specialist is likely for the November tour. Guido Petti and Juan Cruz Guillemáin are, together with Alemanno, involved in the Americas Rugby Championship in Canada. One of them could therefore be called-up by Hourcade and do so ahead of Carizza who has been a benchman rather than a starter at Western Province while Albacete's international career appears to have ended after a heated off-field dispute. 

Patricio Fernández
The back-up option to Nicolás Sánchez in the Rugby Championship was Santiago González Iglesias and not a European based professional such as Santiago Fernández (Bayonne), Juan Pablo Socino (Newcastle) and Benjamín Urdapilleta (Oyonnax). With the squad also including utilities Marcelo Bosch and Juan Martín Hernández the non-selection of such players is clear. 

Patricio Fernández has been given opportunities with Los Pumitas and Los Jaguares and is being groomed to be ripe for the Pumas Rugby World Cup squad. He is very likely to play in November, possibly ahead of González Iglesias who was, arguably, utilized as a bridge with Hourcade not wanting to throw Fernández into the wolves that are SANZAR nations. 

Javier Rojas
The option of utilizing González Iglesias as cover for Hernández at inside centre and also having Jerónimo De la Fuente play from the bench in the position is strong evidence that chances are slim for Socino and Urdapilleta who, both, also cover 12. A player more likely to be given an opportunity is Javier Rojas who can play either centre and was on the November 2013 tour. 

With Horacio Agulla showing his value at outside centre Gonzalo Tiesi faces a very difficult task of being selected. Agulla and Bosch are the leading options for the 13 shirt with Rojas and De la Fuente being utility replacement options for either mid-field position. Gabriel Ascárate is another option for 2015 but is out injured until then.  

Santiago Iglesias Valdez
The performances of Agustín Creevy clearly underlined him as being Argentina's leading hooker and a very good choice as captain. Eusebio Guiñazú has an opportunity to perform well at Munster to get back into the squad and must convince Hourcade that he is ahead of Matías Cortese who is playing for Los Jagures. 

Two other options exists, however, with Julián Montoya also playing in the Americas Rugby Championship and Santiago Iglesias Valdez having been a replacement in the CONSUR Cup and June internationals. Aged 21, Iglesias Valdez is the youngest option but did do well with Los Pumitas and offers greater mobility than the other contenders. He was a part of Hourcade's squad last November which did not include Creevy who was injured. 

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