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Friday, February 10, 2017

Argentina XV kicks off Americas Championship on right foot

By Frankie Deges / Rugby column

Naysayers will complain about many things that are not right with how the game is being run, but the blurred division between high performance and the amateur game is certainly proving that the production line continues to be working overtime.

Argentina’s third choice beat a full Canadian side 20-6 on a snow-covered field in freezing conditions. There are no doubts that if the game had been played in a normal field, even with cold, maybe with rain as happened for about an hour, the final score would have been bigger, After watching the three games in the opening round of the second edition of the Americas Rugby Championship, it seems that only a huge fall in standard in the next four rounds will prevent the young national team from defending the title won last year.

Under the current structure, Argentina XV players are part of the high performance plans yet only three are professionals, those who are contracted to Jaguares and were released for the ARC.

Needless to say, most if not all of them want to become professionals and the path now is much clearer. The Americas Rugby Championship is a five-game tournament against test teams from Canada, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and USA, all opponents in consecutive weekends in that precise order.

In June they will play in the World Rugby Nations Cup in Uruguay with teams to be confirmed but regular participants include Romania, Italy A, Spain, Namibia. Three other three games will be added. Later in the year, three more games will be played, again in Montevideo, in the Americas-Pacific Challenge. Last year, Uruguay was the host of the second XVs of Argentina, Samoa, Fiji, USA and Canada.

A second Super Rugby franchise on the books?

It is no longer a secret that Argentina, or the region, is preparing to have a second Super Rugby franchise. To be able to be competitive from the word go, they need to prepare a second tier of players. When the second franchise happens to go live is very hard to know and what kind of enterprise it will be, where it will be based, how it will operate, who will fund it and many, many more questions remain unanswered.

For the time being, it is positive to have young, up-and-coming players preparing and playing competitive international rugby.

You see Bautista Delguy, the 19-year-old fullback from Pucará who is in his second ARC and in June will play his second U20 World Championship for Los Pumitas and it is hard not to imagine him progressing to the Jaguares first and then to Los Pumas. He is definitely raw and was caught behind his own gain line a couple of times on Saturday. If anything, he was always trying. That game will have done a lot for his coming of age.

The average age of the team is very low and the oldest player in the squad is 29-year-old prop Francisco Ferronato, whose form in Belgrano’s championship-winning season could not go unnoticed. The other props in the squad are 20 (Cristian Bartoloni), 21 (Eduardo Bello), 23 (Franco Brarda) and 24 (Alejo Brem). First-choice hooker is Gaspar Baldunciel is only 20.

The future is not being taken lightly. A lot of work is going into ensuring the next generation are ready to take the next step.

 

@frankiedeges

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