Wednesday, January 14, 2015

RWC 2015: Contenders to Represent Argentina - The Wingers

Photo Créditos UAR
In the seventh edition of an eight part series Argentina 2023 takes a look into the players in contention to represent Argentina on the wings at Rugby World Cup 2015. Los Pumas headcoach Daniel Hourcade has emphasized that he is in search for four different players per position of which he is to select his squad of players for the tournament. Since replacing Santiago Phelan in October 2014 Hourcade has made changes in a variety of positions. In the case of the wings there was a rotation of players throughout 2014 with certain players pushing their cases stronger than others for a place in the World Cup squad. 

Argentina's preparation for joining the Rugby Championship in 2012 was complicated. With the Southern Hemisphere tournament taking place from August-October it meant players based in Europe were forced out of playing the home internationals in June so that they could rest at this time to be in prime shape against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. 

Coach Santiago Phelan was therefore forced to preserving players for the Rugby Championship and therefore utilizing others in the June international window. He was therefore without Horacio Agulla, Gonzalo Camacho, Juan Imhoff and Lucas González Amorosino who were four of his five wingers at Rugby World Cup 2011. Their absence left Agustín Gosio as the only available winger to face Italy and France. 

Phelan used Gosio in addition to Belisario Agulla, Manuel Montero and Facundo Barrea as his wingers in June before returning to Horacio Agulla and Gonzalo Camacho to start all six games of the Rugby Championship. With the Pumas unable to win Phelan used the November tour of Wales, France and Ireland differently as Juan Imhoff started all three tests with Camacho starting two and Agulla one as his partnering winger. 

In June 2013 Phelan's starting wingers were again different. Manuel Montero and Matías Orlando started together against England in Salta with Belisario Agulla being the replacement. Belisario Agulla then started with Montero in Buenos Aires in a match in which Montero picked up a serious knee injury that ended his year. Against Georgia the following week Belisario Agulla was joined by Tomás Carrió against Georgia in San Juan. 

As in 2013 none of the wingers were involved at all in the Rugby Championship. Phelan started Camacho and Imhoff together in the opening match, a game in which Argentina lost by a record margin of sixty points. A much improved performance the following week had Camacho and Horacio Agulla together again as the wingers. The pairing started their final test together against New Zealand in Hamilton as Camacho was seriously injured and is yet to play again.

With Camacho out Phelan Imhoff and Agulla started against Australia in Perth but Lucas González Amorosino replaced Agulla for the test v the All Blacks in La Plata. Agulla returned the following week in Rosario and they were retanined against England in the opening match of the European tour by the new coach Daniel Hourcade. 

Hourcade took over a team that had been unable to produce the quality of rugby required to win Rugby Championship matches and in his first tour in charge he made minimal changes. He did, however start Santiago Cordero on the wing against Wales in his second match in charge before having Imhoff and González Amorosino start in the final test of 2013, Argentina's 19-14 win against Italy. 

Hourcade had a different approach to Phelan which became apparent in early 2014 when he announced that there would be significant changes with some European based players not being selected. The approach began in May 2014 in the CONSUR Cup when he, unlike previous coaches, used the matches to give game time to players he was considering for June. 

González Amorosino started on one with with Romaro Moyano on the other against Chile while Matías Orlando and Tomás Carrió did so against Uruguay. González Amorosino returned home for France while the three others were PladAR players well known to Hourcade. González Amorosino started one of the two tests in June v Ireland on the wing and was partnered by Montero who started both in addition to the test against Scotland. Joining Montero for the two tests without González Amorosino on the wing was Cordero.

Unlike under Phelan all three wingers from the June internationals would be in the Rugby Championship squad. Joining them were Imhoff and Agulla and all would be used in rotational capacity by Hourcade. Montero and Agulla started the opening match against South Africa with González Amorosino replacing Agulla in round two. Agulla was then joined by González Amorosino in round three against New Zealand in Napier.

Throughout Phelan's reign the constant selection of Agulla had been closely linked to a tight game plan in which defensive wingers were as important as attacking ones. Agulla and Camacho were regarded as both being among leading defenders of all wingers playing the game. In searching for a win on the Gold Coast Hourcade opted for Montero and Imhoff, players with a far greater test career return of tries per match than the others who had started Rugby Championship fixtures in 2014.

The pairing of Montero-Imhoff was retained for the home match against the All Blacks in La Plata but González Amorosino replaced Montero for the sixth round fixture against the Wallabies in Mendoza. Playing at outside centre for that game was Horacio Agulla and he also did so against Italy in November 2013 and November 2014. Curiously the three tests with Agulla at outside centre were all Pumas victories.

Montero started all three tests on the left wing with Imhoff playing right wing against Scotland and France and González Amorosino doing so against Italy. The three together with Agulla appear to all be guaranteed their places in the World Cup squad. There are nonetheless other options both at home and abroad. Martín Bustos Moyano, for instance, covers both wings and fullback and is one of Argentina's leading goalkickers.

Agulla and González Amorosino would not only double as centres and fullbacks but given selection under Hourcade they appear to genuinely be in the top two of these positions. They will not be included in the wing options for this reason. There is thus room for up to two more wingers with Cordero or other PladAR players like Tomás Carrió, Dan Issack or a returning Camacho being the likely players.

Wingers
Contenders - Gonzalo Camacho, Santiago Cordero, Juan Imhoff, Manuel Montero

Centres

Player
Position
Age
Club
Union
Gonzalo Camacho
Wing
30
Leicester
England
Santiago Cordero
Wing
21
Regatas
URBA
Juan Imhoff
Wing
23
Racing Métro
France
Manuel Montero
Wing
26
Pucurá
URBA

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