Argentina may prove a surprise package after four seasons in the Rugby Championship.
Argentina are hoping to emulate their best World Cup performance which was in France eight years ago when they finished third. PABLO CSAKY and CARLOS STALGIS with the story.
THEY ARRIVE IN ENGLAND AS..?
Fiercely determined to prove they are one of the four best teams in the world. Argentina’s objective is to reach the semifinals. However, results during the last four years make this goal a stretch. They became a part of the Rugby Championship in 2012 and after three years of participation they won their first match against Australia in 2014 in Mendoza. In last November’s test matches they defeated France and Italy playing with a younger team. They are a team on the rise and having been exposed to the greater pace and intensity of the Rugby Championship could be a surprise package.
WHAT TYPE OF FOOTBALL WILL THEY PLAY?
Argentina are trying to play more attacking rugby, which was one of their biggest problems during the last World Cup. They are strong in defence, but they are still having problems with their attack, which is not penetrating enough. They have recovered the scrum as their best weapon, and they are improving their lineout, which was one area of weakness in their game. Set piece will always be their basis of their game but they need to improve their discipline and accuracy at the breakdown and tackled ball.
ARE THEY SUITABLY MOTIVATED?
Argentina is facing a huge challenge. They are trying to persuade more of their players to return from Europe and play in Argentina.
That’s not easy to do for many reasons but will be helped if the Pumas can show they are capable of being one of the best teams in the world. The Pumas need to be a genuine aspirational carrot and the World Cup will define the real position of Argentinian rugby.
DO THEY HAVE ENOUGH PERSONNEL DEPTH?
Argentina does appear to have enough depth. Most positions are covered by at least two players with experience in that position, but not all. For example during the last World Cup Argentina played with three No 10s in their backs. The centre position has been the main problem. Actually they have Marcelo Bosch and Juan Martin Hernandez covering centre but neither are natural No 12s or 13s. The loose forwards are not a problem; even the younger players are having exceptional performances - Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Ortega Desio. Lock is well covered too with Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini. Unfortunately, Patricio Albacete will not be part of the team due to internal issues.
CAN THEY COPE WITH THE PRESSURE?
Argentina knows how to deal with pressure and never gives up; this is part of the Argentinian rugby pride. Proof of that was the game against Scotland during 2011, which they were losing until the last minute’s winning try by Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
The squad arrives with new blood and keen to show their huge potential in England. They were tested by France in Paris, and they responded well winning that game under huge pressure. This fact could be a key factor on crucial games.
WHERE ARE THEIR WEAKNESSES?
Argentina have experienced players such as, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Leguizamon, Agustin Creevy, Martin Landajo, Marcos Ayerza, Juan Figallo, Juan Martin Hernandez, Marcelo Bosch, Horacio Agulla among others and probably some of them will not be included in the final squad. Despite the fact that most of the squad are younger and played in the Rugby Championship the weakness of the team is the relative lack of caps at highest level.
WHAT ARE THEIR KEY STRENGTHS?
A strong scrum that is a powerful weapon and good players who are both ball winners and finishers. Their basic skills are strong and their kickers are usually accurate.
WHAT POTENTIAL PROBLEMS COULD THEY INCUR?
The excess of confidence could be a key factor for Argentina in their pool. Teams such as Georgia, Tonga or Namibia could be complicated matches for Argentina due to that excess of confidence.
DO THEY HAVE A STRONG ENOUGH LEADERSHIP TEAM?
After the last two Rugby World Cups, Argentina faced problems in this area due to the lack of natural leaders. Juan Fernandez Lobbe replaced Felipe Contemponi after his retirement, but then he resigned. Daniel Hourcade, head coach of Argentina designated Agustin Creevy as a new captain who is taking his role seriously but still lacks experience.
MUCH BETTER: Argentina are a better side than they were in
BIG LESSONS: The Pumas have learned plenty from the Rugby Championship.
Juan Fernan dez