March 8, 2014
OpinionTuesday, December 31, 2013
Tough 2014 season
Argentine rugby faces a tough 2014 season, one in which things have to change. It all hinges on the national team that rounded a lacklustre 2013 season with a 2-10 record — 10 losses is way too much for a side that needs to stay within touching distance of the best in the world with a solid place in local sporting folklore. Losing both of these places would be disastrous.
There are signals that it will be a better year; the Argentine Rugby Union named 70 players divided in three groups: fully funded, partly funded and invited. They will work within the system that focuses on feeding the national team that, from November, is coached by Daniel Hourcade.
The new Head Coach knew what was dividing the Pumas before he took over. After a three-week tour of Europe in which his team lost the first two but won the third and last international, he has a better understanding of the underlying issues. Even better, he knows what the probable solutions are. His personality, decision and the right support will be crucial in a 2014 season which will be as tough as the one that is about to finish.
Therefore, the decision to send the Pampas XV to a new destination is important. “I don’t want to have to prepare a team within a few days to play an international in June,” Hourcade told me recently. After four seasons in which he led the teams with Argentina-based players to South Africa’s Vodacom Cup, the team will now play in Australia against the likes of Fiji, Tonga and B teams from Super Rugby in what will be higher standard to that they used to play in.
Even if Hourcade won’t be the Pampas’ coach, he will be monitoring what is happening over there; it is in fact part of the coach’s agenda to travel and work hand in hand with Pampas coach Martín Gaitán.
Having played around ten games in Australia, the plan is that this team will be the core of the test side to play Ireland (twice) and Scotland in June. “We’ll have to decide on European-based players, more so if they are not playing regularly with their clubs,” argued Hourcade. “It might be the perfect time for them to return to Argentina...”
Argentine rugby faces a big SANZAR decision at the end of February when they decide if they will open their Super Rugby tournament. If they do, it will be crucial they include a team/franchise from Argentina. This will open a door into a new era of international and professional rugby in our country.
Having not been able to secure a win in the Rugby Championship has emphasized how much harder Southern Hemisphere rugby is; and Super Rugby is the stepping-stone. So, to blood our players and have them Championship-ready, they must play regularly at that level.
The internal strife that forced Los Pumas to lose their focus needs to stop. There are responsibilities to face and every individual involved in 2013 will need to address their role in the fracas. Whatever happens in 2014 will be of huge importance for the future of Argentine rugby.