|Photo El Intransigente|
Argentina's Super Rugby franchise continues to take shape as the leading domestic based players and members of PladAR are signing for the UAR. In the space of five days thirteen players have signed binding three-year contracts while an additional two have signed for the year of 2015. Five signatures were announced late on Tuesday, of whom, three played in the November internationals with the remaining two missing due to injury. Back-rowers Javier Ortega Desio, Tomás Lezana, centres Gabriel Ascárate and Matías Orlando in addition to scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli (pictured to the right) all joined the franchise and are all in the frame for Rugby World Cup 2015 selection.
Tomás Cubelli's signature is an important one for the UAR. He has been selected on multiple occasions for the Barbarians and has captained both the Pampas XV and Los Pumas. In the absence of Agustín Creevy he led his country to victory against Italy this past November and in joining Martín Landajo in the squad Argentina's top two scrumhalves have both signed.
The Belgrano Athletic scrumhalf came through the PladAR system, playing for Argentina at under 19 level in 2008 and advancing into the under 20 side, Los Jaguares, Pampas XV and Los Pumas in subsequent years. Having progressed to the senior squad he has become Argentina's top scrumhalf scoring tries against Scotland and South Africa in 2014 and proving to have an evolving game.
Centres Gabriel Ascárate and Matías Orlando are also players to have advanced through the junior system through to the seniors and have experience playing under Daniel Hourcade. Ascárate joins as a player with experience abroad having played professional rugby in France and Scotland. He returned from Glasgow to prepare for international duty in 2014 but was injured in June. Orlando was also involved in June but, like Ascárate, suffered an injury which prevented him from playing in the Rugby Championship or in November.
Both players, together with Matías Moroni who is also expected to sign, have been utilized ahead of Gonzalo Tiesi a player with vast experience that Hourcade has opted against selecting when fit. They join Jerónimo De la Fuente in the squad meaning the same players expected to be the mid-fielders in 2016 for Argentina have all signed. Marcelo Bosch will not play for his country after the World Cup.
Argentina's win against France in Paris in November was a sign of the success of the PladAR system. Well over half of the starting lineup came from PladAR and many were called upon to play in place of highly reputable players who were missing through injury. With Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Pablo Matera and Juan Manuel Leguizamón out Javier Desio Ortega was called-up late in the Rugby Championship and Tomás Lezana added during the November tour.
Desio Ortega had a good match against Australia and was then given the confidence of Hourcade to start throughout November. He had played earlier in the year in test matches played when Argentina could not field European based professionals. Lezana, in contrast, was called-up despite being uncapped. Aged just 20 he came off the bench for Leonardo Senatore to play a highly noteworthy 60 minutes in Paris and underline himself as a player of immense potential.
Both back-rowers are former Pumitas and in joining Rodrigo Báez and Facundo Isa in the squad Argentina has four of the countries leading back-rowers under contract. All are very young and places at not only Rugby World Cup 2015 but also 2019 are realistic for the majority.