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Argentina name Rugby World Cup squad with over 1,000 caps

By Frankie Deges
Agustin Creevy of Argentina (3R) and teammates sing the national anthem prior o a Rugby Championship match between Argentina Pumas and South Africa Springboks at Estadio Libertadores de América on September 17, 2022 in Avellaneda, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Argentina name 33 for Rugby World Cup With 1,433 test caps amongst them, the “well-balanced Puma squad” had a few surprises but no real bombshells when it was announced on Monday.

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Facing the media in a blue suit and a tie-less white shirt, sitting on his own, and using his ever-improving Spanish, Michael Cheika named the 33 players that will, he hopes, take him to a second World Cup final, and, why not, beyond.

“It is a very important day for 33 Argentines,” was his opening remark at the team’s HQ in the Northeast of Buenos Aires.

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“It is the hardest day in a coach’s life but also one of the nicest.”

It was an underwhelming announcement, only the coach and the media. Nothing flashy, no fireworks, no players, simple and business-like. Scrolling down the list and, instantly, names catch the attention.

Winger Juan Imhoff was given a lifeline at 35, having missed the previous Rugby World Cup and Highlanders wing/fullback Martín Bogado, whose first cap last Saturday did not convince, but he is held in high regard and is highly trusted by the coaching staff.

Less surprising was the confirmation that Nicolás Sánchez is in for his fourth Rugby World Cup, selected ahead of promising Tomás Albornoz, who wasn’t given sufficient time on the paddock to prove his worth. His time will come in the next Rugby World Cup cycle.

20-year old Pedro Rubiolo is 18 years younger than Argentina’s first centurion Agustín Creevy, whose ten minutes against the Springboks on Saturday allowed him to reach that figure. Rubiolo, who can play as a loose forward and a lock, earned his call-up from the bench.

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Also 38 is prop Frankie Gómez Kodela, who is a Rugby World Cup debutant. Two Olympic bronze medal winners – scrumhalf Lautaro Bazán Vélez and winger Rodrigo Isgro – will try to further their rugby careers in the larger version of the game, the latter preferred favoured over more experienced players such as Santiago Cordero, who won his 50th cap against the Springboks and Bautista Delguy, a veteran from Japan 2019.

Stronger and a menace on the high ball, “Isgro took the challenge of changing from sevens to fifteens; in his first test he was very busy, was not scared and handled the ball a number of times. This says a lot.” On Saturday he scored a try against Chile for Argentina XV as he was given more time on the field.

“He is a good player, understands his position and he has a huge potential which can develop in a short period of time. We have a month to work with him, as with Bogado.”

Cheika mentioned that he had spoken with four players to inform them they would not be selected, the toughest and longest of conversations being with Matías Orlando, an international since 2012, who lost his place against 22-year old Lucio Cinti, who played every minute of the four 2023 tests at first and later second centre.

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“The larger 33-player squad allowed me to go with three hookers and three scrumhalves. In the backs, it was two flyhalves, four centres and two fullbacks, but many can play in different positions,” he explained.

“In modern rugby, the kicking game is important,” he also highlighted in explaining his decision-making.

When it came to deciding on the two number 10s, Santiago Carreras has been the first choice under Cheika and “Nico (Sánchez) has the experience of three Rugby World Cups.”

Having signed to follow Leonel Messi and take his number 10 shirt to Miami – to play in the MLR’s the Miami Sharks – this will be his swansong.

With 97 caps, the length of Los Pumas’ campaign will probably allow him play his 100th test in France. Another player to move to Miami will be scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli, who hasn’t played this year, and is still not 100% fit.

“We will have a full squad to play against Spain in our last warm-up game, in Madrid,” confirms Cheika. The only player that might need some extra time is Matías Alemanno, who took a heavy knock to his knee against Australia in Sydney.

Back in the frame will be Marcos Kremer, having played no rugby since the end of his European season, when he was suspended for illegally cleaning a ruck. He has been missed. Also missed was Guido Petti, who played his first 50 minutes of any rugby in 2023 on Saturday and showcased the huge talent that will take him to his third Rugby World Cup.

Creevy and Sánchez will play in their fourth tournament, whilst ten players come for their third, including captain Julián Montoya. Six more will be in their second RWC.

“We have a balanced team in terms of experience, with an average age of 28 and a number of players that can play in two or three positions.”

“Our goal is to the reach the top. We don’t want to finish fourth, we want to play in the final on October 28th,” said the coach.

“I have that memory of playing in the final with Australia in 2015 and we have the will to reach even further. We trust the work that we have put in.”

In saying this, the loss against the Springboks two days earlier was tough for the team.

“We work very hard, very detailed and we must be very clear on what we want to do. It is on the details and on getting on to the field not needing to think what we need to do, only to execute.”

“We are not number one in the world so we have to be humble. We will chase our goal and the challenge is to turn it into reality, take confidence in the work we are doing to meet the challenge.”

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England, whose Rugby World Cup squad was also named on Monday, is the first opponent, a few hours after the tournament kicks off in Paris. The game at Marseille on Saturday, September 9th, will be a huge occasion for two teams that have previously met three times in Rugby World Cup, but more importantly, had Argentina as victor when they met at Twickenham last year.

“We are not thinking beyond England. We want the focus to be on that game.”

“Even though our analyst has worked on each of the opponents, we have to think on the first game and then on the next, and then on the next.”

Argentina’s Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18)
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro **
Francisco Gómez
Kodela Joel Sclavi
Thomas Gallo
Eduardo Bello
Julián Montoya (capitán) **
Agustín Creevy *
Ignacio Ruiz
Matías Alemanno **
Tomás Lavanini **
Guido Petti **
Facundo Isa*
Pablo Matera **
Juan Martín González
Santiago Grondona
Marcos Kremer *
Rodrigo Bruni *
Pedro Rubiolo

Backs (15)
Gonzalo Bertranou *
Tomás Cubelli **
Lautaro Bazán
Vélez Santiago Carreras *
Nicolás Sánchez *
Santiago Chocobares
Lucio Cinti
Jerónimo de la Fuente **
Matías Moroni **
Emiliano Boffelli *
Mateo Carreras
Rodrigo Isgró
Juan Cruz Mallía *
Martín Bogado
Juan Imhoff **

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Flankly 12 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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