Argentina is now part of Rugby Championship
By Frankie Deges
For the Herald
Despite the untimely announcement that the direct transpolar flight from Buenos Aires to Auckland and on to Sydney will cease to fly in the very near future, it was all smiles at the Alvear Palace Hotel yesterday when The Rugby Championship was launched in Argentina.
After a rather long thank you to the media from the Unión Argentina de Rugby President Luis Castillo, having received the cue for the live coverage — a first in Argentine rugby — of the historic press conference, spoke of the “pride we are all feeling. This announcement means a new commitment from officials, players, referees and media; a commitment to being better. And I also want to add the sponsors. As they say, we are walking into the Formula One of rugby and they are also important.”
The UAR are actively seeking contract renewals with their sponsors and it is understood they are making very positive progress.
Today, SANZAR’s Executive Committee meet in Buenos Aires, and at the top table was Mike Eagle, their President. “We are delighted to support your launch of The Rugby Championship. We know it has been a long and difficult process but now it is a dream come true.”
“South Africa, New Zealand and Australia look forward with a much enthusiasm to having and welcoming you to a true international competition. Congratulations to all of those who worked hard for the inclusion. It is our belief that the UAR will benefit hugely on and off the field. We also look forward to some of your younger players playing in the Southern Hemisphere and having them available for international rugby.”
One of the key issues is the availability of Argentina’s top players. “We have been in discussion with European clubs about this for quite some time,” said Agustín Pichot, the “foreign affairs” representative. The former captain, who travelled the world endlessly to secure this invitation, explained that he was only “part of a team that achieved entry to SANZAR. We are not members as SANZAR also has Super Rugby, but they have showed a lot of goodwill and we are very thankful for that.”
Los Pumas, who will play their first Rugby Championship game under the shadow of Table Mountain in Cape Town next August 18, have not yet confirmed who will coach them. “We have spoken with Santiago Phelan recently,” explained High Performance Manager Manuel Galindo. Today, Ámbito Financiero — published by the same company that publishes the Buenos Aires Herald — runs a two-page interview with Phelan in which he says that whilst he is interested he has not met with the UAR since Rugby World Cup.
Another issue to come out of the launch was where will Los Pumas play their home matches. President Castillo said, ideally, he would like to spread the games throughout the country.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters intervened. “We strongly recommended that the UAR plays two games in Buenos Aires and the third in the provinces. We have set criteria about stadia; that together with logistics and player welfare are key issues in this recommendation.” As anticipated in yesterday’s Herald, he met on Monday with Daniel Scioli whose province is offering big money to host Los Pumas in La Plata.
In the words of SANZAR, The Rugby Championship is the crown jewel. Argentina is now part of this crown.