June 16, 2012

Argentinean Rugby enters new era ahead of the debut of the Pumas into The Rugby Championship

By SANZAR Communications

It might not have attracted the attention like the World Champion All Blacks returning to Eden Park, but Argentina, who lost to New Zealand during the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, began a season which will now equal tier-one test nations schedule.

Italy have been accounted for in San Juan, a region lower south-west in Argentina, roughly 1,000 km from Buenos Aires, and a mere couple of hundred kilometres away from Santiago, capital of Chile.

A healthy crowd arrived to see a somewhat experimental Argentinean team in place, with European based players becoming available to bolster what was a XV filled with local players.

Coach Santiago Phelan now has to contemplate two tests against their great rivals, Les Bleus, before their historic entry into The Rugby Championship, playing the Springboks at DHL Newlands on August 18.

This three-match campaign however gives the UAR and Argentine rugby time to prepare, with Sir Graham Henry spending the last few weeks in South America, while SANZAR has the opportunity to see a ‘road test’ before Mendoza, La Plata and Rosario host tournament matches in the premier international competition in world rugby.

SANZAR Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters has said that there was much excitement ahead of their introduction into The Rugby Championship.

“Watching a passionate Argentina defeat Italy in San Juan showed the passion of the South American crowds, and their inclusion into The Rugby Championship gives the competition an exciting new dimension,” Peters said.

“Cordoba and Tucuman will play host to the French, before the Pumas play the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies in new locations that will make this tournament very difficult to win.”

“Our friends at the Uniòn Argentina de Rugby have worked hard to prepare for regular test matches at home, and the impending arrival of the three best teams in world rugby annually is a huge occasion we are all looking forward to.”

From 2008 to 2011 (including the World Cup), Argentina played 24 test matches, while the Springboks 48 international fixtures over this time constituted the smallest calendar for the original SANZAR teams – with the All Blacks and Wallabies playing in excess of 50 tests over that four-year period.

The Pumas inclusion into The Rugby Championship will effectively double their test matches each year, meaning a long term goal to establish them in such competition has been achieved, and their upcoming debut will be the end of a process that will now open new doors, with Argentina’s regular combat with the SANZAR giants ensuring they will challenge for the title over time.

The Rugby Championship not only ensures regular competition via their entry into our elite international tournament, but ensures that Argentina will host June inbound opponents, as well as a two to three test autumn internationals timetable to end the year.

SANZAR Operations Manager Brendan Morris has been present in Argentina assisting the UAR with preparations while ensuring their full readiness for their introduction to The Rugby Championship.

Morris has been impressed with the obvious passion of the Argentine rugby community, and their work to prepare for the arrival of not only the Italians and French during June, but the impending entry of the top three teams in world rugby.

The country is clearly excited with what is arguably their largest home test schedule in history.

Dr Marcelo Giglieri (President Union De Rugby De Cuyo), Marcelo Locamuz (Secretario de Deportes: Secretary of Sport Mendoza), Cr. Daniel Vilches (Senador Provincial Mendoza) visited Mendoza with Morris – the first location of the Pumas maiden home match in the 2012 Rugby Championship when they host the Springboks.