Argentina rugby union pull u-turn as Pablo Matera reinstated as Pumas captain
Matera was sensationally stripped of the captaincy and stood down from the Bankwest Stadium Test, along with teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, after racist tweets re-surfaced.
Originally shared between 2011 and 2013, the tweets related to Bolivian and Paraguayan domestic staff and black people, and were described by the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) as “discriminatory and xenophobic”.
The UAR confirmed on Thursday the players had faced a disciplinary hearing, where they had shown great remorse, and the ban had been lifted, however the trio were left out of the side to face Australia.
Centre Jeronimo de la Fuente will lead the team in Matera’s absence.
“The three players expressed their deep regret, reiterated the apology, ratified that it is not what they think and that it was a rec kless act typical of immaturity,” the UAR said in a statement.
“However, they are fully responsible … and seek to amend the damage caused.
“At the time of preliminary issuance, the Disciplinary Committee has considered and assessed the attitude of the three players during this process, and understands that they have not repeated similar actions during these more than eight years, and that they have shown during this time to be people with firm and upright values, worthy of being part of our team.”
The UAR said the commission would reach a final resolution in the next few days but resolved to lift the suspension and restore the captaincy to Matera, who last month became a national hero after he inspired the team to their first win over the All Blacks.
The players had the support of Argentine rugby greats Agustin Creevy and Agustin Pichot, who both said the trio had changed.
Former captain Creevy, Argentina’s most-capped rugby player of all-time having played 89 Tests including 49 as skipp er, said the tweets no longer represented the players.
Creevy captained the players at international level until 2018.
“As a group we know each other. I know Pablo, Guido and Santiago and I know who they are today,” Creevy wrote in a statement on Twitter.
“The sordid tweets they wrote years ago do not represent them at all. They have acknowledged it themselves, felt ashamed and apologised.
“All people make mistakes, and athletes are not exempt from that.”
Former halfback Pichot played 71 Tests for the Pumas and also captained the side before moving into administration.
A highly respected figure who earlier this year stood for election as chairman of World Rugby, Pichot was the driving force behind the country’s elevation into the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.
He said the players had matured since the posts.
“All 3 players’ tweets were wrong,” Pichot tweeted.
“I believe in their repentance and in their maturation since they wrote it.”
Argentina: Santiago Carreras, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Felipe Ezcurra; Rodrigo Bruni, Facundo Isa, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Matias Alemmano, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Reserves: Jose Luis Gonzalez, Mayco Vivas, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Lucas Paulos, Francisco Gorrissen, Gonzalo Bertranou, Domingo Miotti, Santiago Chocobares.
– Melissa Woods
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