Saturday, November 22, 2014

International Rugby: Argentina becomes full SANZAR member

Photo UAR
Confirmation of Argentina and Japan being added to an expanded Super Rugby competition starting in 2016 created headlines throughout the rugby world this past week. Argentina's involvement had been known for a long time with Japan's having been under threat from Singapore or missing out altogether. What was not covered extensively by the media was that a lot more took place for Argentina than simply joining the SANZAR competition. The South American country was fully integrated into SANZAR to no longer be a guest but now a partner union alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Such a change is a phenomenal step towards hosting a Rugby World Cup.  

UAR president Carlos Araujo signed agreements that confirm Argentina as having one team in Super Rugby from 2016-2020 and the international future of Los Pumas in the Rugby Championship was also confirmed for the same period. The trial period of Argentina in the Rugby Championship is therefore over and was a success.

With the long term future sealed and the birth of professionalism in Argentina all boxes have been ticked for Argentina to be considered a strong contender to host a Rugby World Cup. Critics of Argentina hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 have pointed out that the country needs a professional competition if it is to be taken seriously.

Admission to Super Rugby sees this taken care of to give Argentina the same status as Rugby World Cup 2003 hosts, Australia whose professional rugby was Super Rugby. The South American country will now be involved in an elite professional competition and have increased market exposure to further encourage World Rugby to allocate hosting rights to the Americas for the first time.

Joining Argentina as the new arrival in Super Rugby will be Japan but, unlike Argentina, the Asians are to be a guest and not a member union of SANZAR. In joining Super Rugby both countries will benefit significantly through having the opportunity to host first-class professional matches. The existing member unions will also all gain through the market power that Argentina and Japan carry.

Argentina's team is to be the Pampas XV. The PladAR team has been a part of semi-professional competitions in the past and has won both the Vodacom Cup in South Africa and the Pacific Cup in Australia. Involved will be Argentina's leading players who will then play international rugby from June-November.

Selection will be altered to make players in Europe no longer eligible for international honors. Players in the Aviva Premiership, Guinness Pro 12 and Top 14 therefore have a choice to make of staying abroad or returning home to continue their international careers. Selection will, however, remain open to players in Super Rugby teams other than the Pampas.

Also confirmed was that Daniel Hourcade will be staying on as Argentina's head coach in 2016. El huevo told reporters that starting in 2016 no players based in Europe will be eligible for international duty. The change in philosophy is to give the coach complete power over his players. It will bring an end to having depleted squads in the June internationals every year. 

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