After months of silence over the issue Los Pumas head coach Daniel Hourcade has come out and publicly stated that the international career of Patricio Albacete is over. After training in Paris ahead of Saturday's international test match against France Hourcade told the press that Albacete is the only Argentine rugby player that cannot play for his country again. The comment from el huevo puts an end to the speculation that, indeed, the Toulouse second-rower has had his test career cut short for off-field reasoning. Now without Albacete Hourcade will need to identify and prepare alternative options to represent South America's most powerful rugby nation at next year's World Cup in England and Wales. Indeed, for this very reason such players have been representing Argentina in 2014 while Albacete has been unselected.
The Albacete v UAR saga was coined 'Albacete Gate' by Argentine rugby journalist Chris Goméz Csher. The term brought light to the disagreement between player and coach with the former having publicly called the a liar based on claims that he had been promised the captaincy only for it to subsequently go to Juan Manuel Leguizamón.
Albacete Gate received a mixed reaction with some calling for Hourcade to recall Albacete while others wanted his career to be ended prematurely. Ignacio Corleto, for instance, backed Albacete returning to Los Pumas but this will never come into being. Without Albacete Hourcade has altered responsibilities with Agustín Creevy the new captain and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe's role altered to being a senior player leading by example.
In confirming the door is closed to a possible test recall for Albacete Hourcade told the media ''except for Albacete, who to me is a closed case because he treated me as a liar and I will not accept any player to disrespect a coach, all other players could be summoned. Carizza, Figallo and, in June, I also want to give those in Europe a further chance to be selected. I need for the base to be as broad as possible, I need four players per position.''
With Albacete out of the running the preferred Rugby Championship combination of Tomás Lavanini and Mariano Galarza is now going to require two supporting players for the World Cup. Those used by Hourcade in 2014 include Matías Alemanno, Guido Petti, Lucas Ponce, Juan Cruz Guillemaín and Manual Carizza. No other second-rower is likely to be in the World Cup squad.
Of them Galarza, Lavanini and Cruz Guillemaí are contracted to European clubs and Carizza is playing in South Africa. Alemanno, Petti and Ponce, for their part, will be featuring for the Pampas XV in the IRB Pacific Cup in Australia. After seeing performances in the Pacific Cup in addition to abroad Hourcade will name an international squad in June.
''At the end of June I will give a list of 35 players, at which time everybody will have had their chance. This year I needed to expand the base so that players know how to play the way we want to play. It was not in our plans to have so many youngsters against Italy, for example, but theya re the risks that we knew could occur.... those who faced the Wallabies knew how to play.''
Argentina 2023 wishes Patricio Albacete the best for his remaining rugby career with Toulouse and for his life post rugby. The thirty-two year old was one of the world's best second-rowers over the past decade. The veteran of three Rugby World Cups has been playing for Toulouse since 2006 and is a three time French and also a European champion. He played in all Rugby World Cup 2007 matches, the tournament which enabled Argentina to eventually gain entrance to the Rugby Championship.