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Thread: Pumas denied Wallabies Test

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    Pumas denied Wallabies Test

    Pumas denied Wallabies Test

    By Wayne Smith
    December 26, 2007


    ARGENTINA's hopes of using a Test in June against Australia as the centrepiece of its historic campaign to make its game professional have been dashed by the Australian Rugby Union's inability to squeeze the Pumas into its 2008 program.

    Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) president Alejandro Risler had said that, as a result of a meeting with ARU chairman Peter McGrath and other Australian officials in England last month, a Pumas-Wallabies Test would be played in either Australia or Buenos Aires in June.

    The proposed Test was seen by Argentina as a key component in its plan to ensure the momentum built by the Pumas' stunning third-place finish at the Rugby World Cup in France was not lost.

    But ARU acting chief executive Matt Carroll said this week the scheduling of a Test in June against Argentina, on top of the series against the inbound French side, was impossible.

    "There simply is no room," Carroll said.

    The ARU has suggested the match be played in July, filling in one of the spare weekends during the Wallabies' Tri-Nations campaign, but almost all of Argentina's top players are based in Europe and that month is the designated rest time for northern hemisphere footballers.

    If the match went ahead then, the Pumas would struggle to field a third-string side - scarcely an attractive proposition.

    The scheduling nightmare has highlighted the need for the historic summit meeting the UAR has called of all its constituents in Buenos Aires on Saturday at which more than 100 years of amateur rugby is expected to be brought to a close.

    Where the rest of the rugby world embraced professionalism in 1995, Argentina clung stubbornly to the old amateur ethos.

    As a result, Argentina has become the largest exporter of talent in the world, with more than 400 of its top footballers spread over European clubs and even Test sides.

    No fewer than half a dozen Argentines are to be found in the Italian Test squad alone.

    But while the player drain was the obvious downside of sticking to the old ways in a fast-changing world, a previously unrecognised benefit of maintaining amateurism is now starting to emerge.

    Where club rugby around the world is suffering from the mindset that everyone involved at the top end expects payment, volunteers flourish in Argentine club rugby, especially in the overflowing junior ranks.

    Only physical trainers are allowed to be paid in Argentina, and then they scarcely receive more than pocket money.

    Les Cusworth, the former Leicester and England player and coach who now serves as the UAR's director of rugby, said that attitude had generated a dynamism in Argentina that no other country is capable of matching.

    "The maintenance of the club structure here is imperative, otherwise we'll kill the goose that lays the golden egg," Cusworth said.

    It is a limited form of professionalism that Risler intends to introduce. "First we need to change the by-laws to allow professional rugby and then we can start with 60-70 professionals," Risler said.

    His bold plan is that those 70-odd players, many of whom he hopes to lure back from overseas, will be split into two Argentina-based teams that will compete next year in South Africa's domestic Currie Cup competition.

    It's a daring concept and one that will test the preparedness of Argentine players to travel whatever distances are required to play the game.

    But hopefully the scheme can be locked into place when the South African Rugby Union, which has inherited the rotating SANZAR secretariat from Australia, sends a delegation to Buenos Aires in February.

    Risler also hopes that that meeting will settle on a date for a Test against the world champion Springboks in November.

    With the Wallabies now off the radar until 2009 at the earliest, the UAR strongman desperately is hoping he does not receive a similar rebuff from South Africa.

    Just how urgently Argentina needs admission to the Tri-Nations competition was highlighted a fortnight ago when the Pumas, despite fielding none of their Rugby World Cup side, put Chile to the sword 79-8 in San Juan in one of only three locked-in Tests on their schedule in the next 12 months.

    "We didn't play any of our professionals against them, nor any of the six amateurs we took to the World Cup," Cusworth said.

    "Admission to a major competition is what we need. Everyone seems to be pointing us in the direction of the Tri-Nations (after a recent application to join the Six Nations was rejected) but if that's the way it's going, we need to get moving."

    SANZAR's plan is that Argentina will be admitted to a southern hemisphere super series once the new broadcast agreement is negotiated in 2010, but Risler is determined that the intervening years will not be wasted.

    "It will have to be a transition period but arranging competition is the big challenge for Argentina," Risler said.

    It's important for reasons beyond merely exposing a new generation of Pumas to the demands of Test rugby.

    Although there are no indications that the country's economy will enable the UAR to match the European offers in the short-term - "if Argentina can't keep its soccer players at home, what hope does Argentine rugby have?" asked Cusworth - the union is hoping to at least slow the talent drain to a trickle and even lure back some of its lost legions.

    To do that, the UAR needs to generate some revenue and the sad fact is that it has been more economical for it to play Tests overseas in recent years rather than go to the expense of flying back its Pumas stars.

    That's another reason why this amateurism summit is so important. If the UAR restructures itself along professional lines, it will be better placed to demand that the International Rugby Board hands over $5.2 million in development funds it has withheld over the past two years because it was not satisfied Argentina was planning properly for the future.

    The IRB's fear was that all the recent gains, culminating in Argentina's repeat victories over host nation France to secure third place at the Rugby World Cup, could be frittered away.

    No chance of that, according to Cusworth.

    "There is so much talent coming through," he said. "Argentine rugby is in fine shape. There is no way the production line is going to grind to a halt."

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    Veteran Contributor JediKnight's Avatar
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    Aussies are running scared of the Pumas. Don't want the embarrassment of a hammering at home.

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    Immortal jargan83's Avatar
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    I'm an Aussie and i'm not a fan of this decision, i'm also a rugby fan and how is Argentina supposed to keep improving and continue the roll on from the RWC if no one will play them. 3 guarenteed tests in 12 months and the other tri nations sides will play 14 tests (i assume we will be touring northern hemisphere at end of year)

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    Veteran Contributor frontrow's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with you jedi, the Aussies are looking to rebuild their reputation and rankings and will tend not to expose any perceived weaknesses (such as our forward pack), to an obviously quality opposition such as the Pumas, especially so early in the new coaches tenure...

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    Legend Contributor slomo's Avatar
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    not a good decision by the ARU, sees a bit shorts sighted, id love to see australia vs argentina in perth, make a change from the saffas

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    Veteran Contributor frontrow's Avatar
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    Seems the only constants with the ARU, inconsistancy and short sightedness...

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    Thing is, Pumas are above us on the ladder.
    The only way up the ladder is to beat teams that are above us!
    Beating teams below us does nothing.
    I agree, for one year at least I'd love to watch Wallabies v Pumas in Perth if it was their full strength Pro XV.

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    I found it an interesting article, but maybe for different reasons

    The ARU has suggested the match be played in July, filling in one of the spare weekends during the Wallabies' Tri-Nations campaign, but almost all of Argentina's top players are based in Europe and that month is the designated rest time for northern hemisphere footballers.

    If the match went ahead then, the Pumas would struggle to field a third-string side - scarcely an attractive proposition.
    So, isn't that a straightforward admission that there is just no way Argentina can field any sort of competitive team in the S14 or 3N anytime soon?

    His bold plan is that those 70-odd players, many of whom he hopes to lure back from overseas, will be split into two Argentina-based teams that will compete next year in South Africa's domestic Currie Cup competition.

    It's a daring concept and one that will test the preparedness of Argentine players to travel whatever distances are required to play the game.

    But hopefully the scheme can be locked into place when the South African Rugby Union, which has inherited the rotating SANZAR secretariat from Australia, sends a delegation to Buenos Aires in February.
    So either the Currie Cup teams will all have to go to Argentina or the Argentinians will be told they have to base themselves in SA - either way there is going to be some serious money sunk into flights and accommodation. If it doesn't work, it won't bode well for their involvement in any other SH competition. If it does, it would have to raise questions about how a competition based entirely within Australia couldn't be made to work.

    Just how urgently Argentina needs admission to the Tri-Nations competition was highlighted a fortnight ago when the Pumas, despite fielding none of their Rugby World Cup side, put Chile to the sword 79-8 in San Juan in one of only three locked-in Tests on their schedule in the next 12 months.
    Hang on, wouldn't that be the same side that's such an unattractive proposition for a test in July? You can't have it both ways.
    Although there are no indications that the country's economy will enable the UAR to match the European offers in the short-term - "if Argentina can't keep its soccer players at home, what hope does Argentine rugby have?" asked Cusworth - the union is hoping to at least slow the talent drain to a trickle and even lure back some of its lost legions.
    What on earth does the country's economy have to do with it? It is the status and financial scope of the game that matters, and no SH team can defend itself from the money on offer in the NH. If they think involvement in the CC or S14 is going to address their player drain, they're kidding themselves...especially if they continue selecting European based players for the national side.
    Personally I don't think that including Argentina in the S14/3N is really going to appeal that much to Newscorp - I'm not sure they would really expect to sell lots more Foxtel as a result. What I can see is SANZAR setting itself up for a big pratfall...they are full of big talk, but what will they do when News says "Sure, bring in Argentina but it isn't worth much to us - you can have the same money as before and you can spread it across the four of you."

    Putting that aside though, Argentina has got where they are courtesy of the NH clubs and they are competitive when their european players are available. If this could be guaranteed, then they could play in any competition in the world. But that is not what is being offered to the S14 and 3N, and belting Chile does not in any way indicate that you are ready for 3N.

    The fact of the matter is that Argentina's performance in the RWC is irrelevant - what we are talking about is what should be done with an amateur organisation in South America when they go professional. If the plan is for them to play tests with SANZAR but without their NH players, then I personally think they should start with the PNC. If they can beat Aus A and the NZ Maori sides over a couple of years, then we can talk 3N.

    In some respects I am actually a little surprised that they are not happy with the status quo so long as they could pick up a few more test matches. After all, they are sitting 3rd in the world, with Europe paying for their professional ranks and a thriving amateur scene - is there really that much wrong with that model? Still, I suppose life is growth and that $5.2 million must be well tempting. But I am just not convinced they should be looking to SANZAR as the source of funds for their domestic competition.

    My personal opinion is that they (and the IRB) should be looking at creating a new American competition - say 4 teams from Canada, 6 from the US, 5 from Argentina and the potential to include sides from Japan, Uruguay and Chile. Using just the domestic competition as is, they'd all basically be at a level at the moment. If they could access a fraction of the sporting funds expended in the US each year, what couldn't they afford by way of professional coaching etc. They just need to create the product and they are at least all in the same time zones. Play it on the SH season and they'd even have grass to play on in Canada. They can then play their tests wherever - PNC, Churchill Cup, whatever mid or end of season tour they like.

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    Last edited by AndyS; 27-12-07 at 20:30.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyS View Post
    In some respects I am actually a little surprised that they are not happy with the status quo so long as they could pick up a few more test matches. After all, they are sitting 3rd in the world, with Europe paying for their professional ranks and a thriving amateur scene - is there really that much wrong with that model?
    The other aspect to this is the cost of changing the current model. Any change to this is going to cost the UAR an absolute motza. Admission to S14, Currie cup or whatever existing SH competition you care to name will cost in airfares, accommodation etc, luring players back to domestic Argentine rugby will cost in salary, setting up an American league (where they would be the league leaders in training, and organisation if their World Standing is any indication) will cost in salary, resources, stadia, etc. It's all going to cost. Where is this money coming from? The IRB can happily dismiss the Argentine application to play in Europe, but will they fund the cost of this dismissal!

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    Champion Contributor Seldom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JediKnight View Post
    Aussies are running scared of the Pumas. Don't want the embarrassment of a hammering at home.
    I'm with you on this one JK

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    Personally, I would love to see the Argies in the Tri-Nations (signature!) but I really believe its the IRB who have to enforce the rule that a national team gets first call on players- if that can be enforced, and the actual full-strength Pumas are involved, then I think they would be a marvellous inclusion. I also wonder whether Argentina should really worry too much about domestic professionalism, when its been shown that there is no real problem with its national team being all overseas-based. Besides, that money could go even further into player development, so that Argentina doesn't suffer only having a "Golden (Bronze?) Generation," like Canada, Italy or Romania and end up back down the ladder in 5 years time. They could really be a worthy addition as soon as next season if the IRB wasn't a toothless tiger!

    Conversely though, I think any real involvement in Super12/14/16 (etc) would have to be a little while down the track when they could field a domestic-only team which is strong enough to mix it with the rest of SANZAR, especially away from home. But then again, you can also add Uruguayan players and Chileans (who have a good 7s team) to that mix- and I can't see there being a problem with having them in the Super 14 squad

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