Impress your mates while watching england v Argentina in the Rugby World Cup with this in depth scouting report of the Pumas...
This isn’t quite the same side that did so well at the previous World Cup (upsetting hosts France and finishing third) in 2007.
That was probably a one-off generation. Some of their most influential players i.e. Agustín Pichot, Nacho Fernández Lobbe, Martín Durand, Gonzalo Longo, Omar Hasan, Ignacio Corleto, Rimas Álvarez, Lucas Ostiglia, M. Contepomi, Nicolás Fernández Miranda, Federico Todeschini etc have retired from international duty (or quit playing overall). Also Argentina’s top player -and arguably one of the world’s best when fit-, Juan Martín Hernández is out as he couldn’t recover in time from his cruciate ligaments injury, and others like J. Leguizamón or G. Tiesi are not 100% ready.
We are not saying the Pumas are all but incapable of defeating England, but the ones sporting the Rose have a brilliant opportunity to beat them and probably win the group.
The new generation in place is not quite there yet
While Pichot’s leadership and Hernández’s points will be sorely missed Argentina’s new “crop” of players is a young one -not quite established top players in Europe, pretty much work in progress. Surely M. Rodríguez Gurruchaga, L. González Amorosino, J. Imhoff, A. Creevy, N. Sánchez and A. Gosio have shown promise but it’s a bit early for them. Also Argentina manager, (ex player) Santiago “Tati” Phelan has almost no experience and this will be his first RWC on the other side of the touchline. Add to that, rugby is still an amateur sport domestically in Argentina hence the transition to replace/succeed the heroes of 2007 has become a long, difficult one.
They play different rugby too
With the retirement of some figures and the arrival of the new ones Argentina’s style has varied a little bit. If you saw last week’s test match in Wales this is no longer a solid side that will make you pay for mistakes (dominated the game for the first 30’, failed to capitalise and were subsequently beaten 28-13) nor do they possess the same brilliant set of forwards or base their game on scrum, line and other fixed formations. They are far less efficient at that and, instead, the trend is to be a bit more dynamic and use their hands more with faster/lighter players and a dangerous set of backs. And without Juani Hernández they will lose a lot in terms of kicking and putting the side forward –Felipe Contepomi, Nico Sánchez and Martín Rodríguez can kick a ball but are nowhere near him.
Average recent form
It has not been easy for the gaffer. Since Philan took over from Marcelo Loffreda at Argentina’s helm the team have not enjoyed good results, nor found a “basic XV” and injuries haven’t helped him one bit. Unlike that historical group of 2007 the Pumas are not tackling as well (again see the test match in Wales) and they’re losing more scrums and line out’s than they should to secure possession.
They still have some leaders
Being significantly decimated and quite less experienced Argentina are relying heavily on their remaining influential players. Legendary number 9, Agustín Pichot is out so the team is being carried by Felipe Contepomi, J. M. Fernández Lobbe, the excellent Patricio Albacete, scrum specialist Rodrigo Roncero and Mario Ledesma for whom these are the last few matches in the Pumas shirt -the hooker is quitting rugby to take up a coaching role in France.
Though vulnerable in certain areas the Pumas will display an excellent attitude and team spirit, and they’re to be carried by the versatile Contepomi, the ball-winning Pato Albacete and the experienced Rorro Roncero doing all the dirty work. If Argentina have any chance of upsetting England on September 10 the three of them will have to be at their absolute peak.
The Pampas XV Group
8 players (Creevy, Imhoff, Sánchez, Gosio, Senatore, Bustos, Galarza and Farías) in this squad took part in Argentina’s development team, Pampas XV as they won the Vodacom cup in South Africa earlier this year. 23-year-old winger, Juan Imhoff was tryman of the tournament.
As always Argentina underwent a stage in Pensacola, America where all players underwent excruciating training sessions, a lot of gym work, diet control and -more importantly- had the opportunity to become closer and focus ahead of the RWC. Pensacola has become a classic destination for the Pumas, both in terms of physical development and team building.
The foul factor
If there is an Achilles Heel to the Pumas it’s their discipline. During the preparation matches fouls/infractions have become a major issue with players not very assured, facing the formations from the side, producing forward passes and keeping the ball down. To be able to compete with England Argentina will have to diminish those numbers drastically.
Pressure on the kickers
Argentina is well aware of England’s potential with Toby Flood and -eventually- Jonny Wilkinson as expert kickers. They will designate players to come from the flank and make things hard for them to kick (i.e. score points or make tactical kicks) –Horacio Agulla is great at that. So the key for England there is to secure them a pocket of space to prepare their kicks comfortably.
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