Monday, March 9, 2015

Pacific Challenge: Pampas XV named to face Fiji 'A'

Photo UAR
The coaching staff of the Pampas XV have named the starting lineup and reserve players for the opening round fixture of the World Rugby Pacific Challenge match against Fiji 'A' in Fiji on Tuesday. Raúl Pérez and Martín Gaitán have selected scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli (pictured to the right) as captain of a team featuring eight players from Argentina's end of year European tour in November. Cubelli will lead the side with Felipe Ezcurra being his back-up. As such there is no place in the 23 for Martín Landajo who misses out altogether. The game kick-off at 2am Argentine time on Tuesday. 

Tomás Cubelli is expected to be starting for Argentina against New Zealand in the opening weekend of the World Cup. The Belgrano Athletic scrumhalf had an impressive year in 2014 to overtake Martín Landajo and captain his country to victory over Italy. He is now to lead the Pampas XV in a halves combination with Santiago González Iglesias against Fiji 'A'. 

Playing outside them will be the highly promising centres combination of Jerónimo De la Fuente and Matías Moroni, two players like Cubelli and González Iglesias, to have signed Super Rugby countracts with the UAR. All four are strong contenders for the World Cup and in 2014 received notably more opportunities at international level than multiple players in their positions who play professionally in Europe. 

The starting wingers are also players in contention for World Cup places. Manuel Montero underlined his credentials by scoring v Australia, Ireland and South Africa while Santiago Cordero is possibly just as good as a finisher. They will be joined in the back-three by veteran Román Miralles. 

Pérez and Gaitán's starting backs would appear to be close to the strongest possible lineup but there is more experimentation in the forwards as shown by Bruno Postiglioni, Julían Montoya and Matías Díaz having been named as the starting front-row. All are players in contention for international duty in 2015 but Daniel Hourcade demonstrated a preference for others in 2014. 

The starting second-row pairing of Guido Petti Pagadizabal and Matías Alemanno both started tests v elite opposition in 2014 and are needing to deliver to be selecting in 2015. They face opposition from Manuel Carizza, Tomás Lavanini and Mariano Galarza suggesting two of these five will miss out on a place at the World Cup. Also in consideration is Lucas Ponce who is currently out of action for health reasons. 

The back-row selected to face Fiji 'A' shows confidence. The coaches have opted to give Lisandro Ahualli de Chazal a start ahead of Facundo Isa and leave Tomás Lezana out of the team altogether. Ahualli de Chazal will join Javier Desio Ortega and the returning Pablo Matera in the back-row. Matera is yet to play for the Pampas XV this year after having gotten himself in trouble during a late night incident in Argentina. 

Although 2015 marks the first edition of the World Rugby Pacific Challenge the competition is by no means entirely new. It replaces the Pacific Cup which took place over previous years. Argentina won the 2014 competition after the Pampas XV joined the tournament from South Africa's Vodacom Cup. 

The Fijian media has argued that the Pampas XV are tournament favorites based on the team haveing performed well in the 2014 Pacific Cup and that many players from the squad are expected to play in the World Cup. A detailed media pack, released by the UAR, surrounding the competition and team can be downloaded free fo charge by clicking here.

Bruno Postiglioni
Julián Montoya
Matías Díaz
Guido Petti
Matías Alemanno
Pablo Matera
Javier Ortega Desio
Lisando Ahualli de Chazal
Tomás Cubelli
Santiago González Iglesias
Manuel Montero
Jerónimo De La Fuente
Matías Moroni
Santiago Cordero
Román Miralles
Lucas Noguera Paz
Facundo Bosch
Lucas Martínez
Gerónimo Albertario
Facundo Isa
Felipe Ezcurra
Javier Rojas
Emiliano Boffelli

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