Argentina have played only one match this year in a limited build up to the rugby world cup. In that match they lost comfortably to Wales by 28-13 and scored only one try, a forward rumble from a lineout.
Argentina’s success in the 2007 world cup came on the back of a strong forward pack and an excellent 9-10 combination of Augustin Pichot and Juan Martin Hernandez. The nucleus of the forward pack is still there and, while long in the tooth, will expect to be challenging all teams they meet. However Pichot has retired and Hernandez has not recovered from long term injuries in time to be selected. While Felipe Contepomi, who started at 12 in 2007, is also a high class outside half and able replacement, it reduces the number of world class players Argentina have on show, and could be a major difference this time around.
While Argentina have outside backs playing at a high club level in Europe, including Amorosino, Camacho and Agulla, the Argentine team has not usually played with great flair in internationals and it will be a great challenge for coach Santiago Phelan to get them involved. The Argentines often have trouble getting their best XV released from clubs to come together between world cups, so they are something of an unknown quantity.
Argentina have a tricky group that includes England, Scotland, Georgia and Romania. All of these sides have their strengths in the forward packs, so it should be a physical and fascinating group as their strengths and confidences collide. Argentina are well capable of beating any of those sides on their day, but consistency has not been a strength and they will have to keep up their concentration even against Georgia. Scotland will also fancy their chances in an arm wrestle, given that they beat Argentina in two matches on their home soil in 2010. Anything can happen here. If they do qualify from the group, in either first or second, Argentina should find themselves facing one of New Zealand and France in the quarter final – there is no easy route.
Argentina have the added carrot of being added to the expanded tri nations tournament next year. They will want to put up a good showing for their new partners, and they should be the international team with the most room for improvement via consistent, high class matches, aside from the Pacific Island nations. Argentina should have a great rugby future – but may struggle to meet the expectations raised by their fourth place finish four years ago.
Props: Juan Figallo, Martín Scelzo, Maximiliano Bustos, Rodrigo Roncero, Marcos Ayerza
Hookers: Mario Ledesma, Agustin Creevy
Locks: Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Mariano Galarza, Tomas Vallejos
Flankers: Juan Martin Leguizamon, Alvaro Galindo, Alejandro Campos, Julio Farias Cabello
No. 8s: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Leonardo Senatore
Halfbacks: Nicolas Vergallo, Alfred Lalanne
Flyhalves: Felipe Contepomi (C), Nicolas Sanchez
Centres: Santiago Fernandez, Marcelo Bosch, Gonzalo Tiesi, Agustin Gosio
Outside backs: Martin Rodriguez, Lucas González Amorosino, Gonzalo Camacho, Juan José Imhoff, Horacio Agulla
2011 results (most recent first): L.
Tries in 2011: 1 in 1 RWC warm up match.
Main goal kickers: Contepomi, Sanchez.