Saturday, May 2, 2015

European Champions Cup: Argentina's Nine Winners

Photo Rugby Rama
Today's European Rugby Champions Cup Final in London saw veteran Argentine back Juan Martín Hernández join a select group of his countrymen to have won the European title. Starting at inside centre for Toulon Hernández became Argentina's ninth player to be a European Champion. The match was his second final after he previously played for Stade Français Paris in a losing effort against Toulouse in 2005. His countryman Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe won his third title in as many years when he joined Hernández in the second half. 

Since the first professional European final in 1996 a total of ten different teams have won the title. Champions have come from England, France and Ireland and have tended to have their teams composed of a combination of leading players of their club's nationality together with stars from abroad. 

Today's final at Twickenham in London was a case in point as French internationals Mathieu Bastareaud, Xavier Chiocci, Damien Chouly, Vincent Debaty, Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado, Camille Lopez, Benjamin Kayser, Noa Nakaitaci, Morgan Parra, Sébastien Tillous-Borde and Sebastien Vahaamahina all started the match. All of them are contenders to represent France at this year's Rugby World Cup.

Clermont and Toulon both also had players in consideration for France's World Cup squad on the replacement benches. Some of these players were behind imported stars who started ahead of them. An  instance being Frédéric Michalak being on the bench while both Matt Giteau and Juan Martín Hernández were in the Toulon run-on team. 

By being involved Hernández became Argentina's ninth player to win the European Championship, but remarkably the first back. Previous Pumas to have won the European club competition include front-rowers Omar Hasan, Federico Méndez, Martín Scelzo and Alberto Vernet Basualdo, second-rower Patricio Albacete and back-rower Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. Also to have won from Argentina are Italian capped props Federico Pucciariello and Martín Castrogiovanni. 

Despite Jamie Cudmore being on the losing side today for Clermont Auvergne the country nonetheless has a European champion. Winger Winston Stanley started for the Leicester Tigers in the club's 2001 championship winning final. Former USA Eagles back-rower Dan Lyle, meanwhile, was a 1998 champion by winning with Bath.

European Championship Winners from Argentina
Federico Méndez
Bath, Northampton
1998, 2000
Martín Scelzo
Omar Hasan
Federico Pucciariello
Patricio Albacete
Alberto Vernet Basualdo
Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe
2013, 2014, 2015
Martín Castrogiovanni
Juan Martín Hernández

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