Up and Under is a weekly feature on Americas Rugby News which reviews the best and worst from games involving the Americas teams over the previous week.
Mexico started their international season in style on Saturday, recording a big win over Bermuda. The 59-7 triumph underlines the progress made by Mexico and also the potential the country has to eventually bridge the gap between itself and Rugby Americas Championship teams. Las Serpientes dominance was not immediate. Indeed the first to score was Bermuda. Corey Boyce went over against the run of play to give Bermuda a 7-0 lead. Mexico turned it around smartly, ultimately going into half time with a 33-7 advantage. In the second half Las Serpientes continued to play the better rugby. The five first half tries were added to by four in the second with the bigger and better prepared Serpientes proving to be the superior side.
Guyana ran out winners over Barbados this weekend. Their 34-26 triumph at the Garrison Field sees them making a promising start to their Rugby Americas North South Zone campaign. The Guyanese Green Machine were favorites to win and did not disappoint. The team’s vice captain, Richard Staglon impressed, scoring a hat-trick. Vallon Adams also crossed for a double while Ahmed Isaacs scored a try on what was his test debut. Rickford Cummings landed two conversions. Next up for Guyana is a match against traditional rivals, Trinidad & Tobago. It is to be played at the National Park Rugby Field on June 10 and will be a rematch of the 2016 South Zone final.
Los Cóndores got revenge for their loss to Brazil earlier this year. At the time the Americas Rugby Championship defeat was down talked based on the Rugby World Cup qualifiers being more important. Unlike in February, Chile played with access to players based in France and those from Chile’s 7’s side. They boosted the performance but Chile failed to deliver a complete performance. Instead they required a late try to win 15-10. With Paraguay visiting this coming weekend Los Cóndores are well placed to complete back-to-back victories.
Uruguay got their South American ‘A’ Championship off to a winning start on Saturday as they cruised past Paraguay at the Estadio Héroes de Curupaytí. Heavy wind and rain delayed kickoff by 30 minutes but it didn’t affect the concentration of Los Teros, who ran out to a 40-0 lead before Paraguay could put any points on the board. The forwards set the platform for the victory as they piled into the Yakares early and often. The fixture doubled as a Rugby World Cup qualifier. Next up is a home game against Brazil on Saturday.
It was a huge week for player movement in Canadian rugby. Regular captain Tyler Ardron is to depart Wales for Super Rugby. The move sees him trading the Ospreys for the Chiefs. A player likely to join Ardron in the back-row for Canada next month is Kyle Baillie. The Summerside, PEI, native has signed for London Scottish. Veteran No 8 Aaron Carpenter has also secured his future in England, signing a new deal with Doncaster. South of the border there was also encouraging news. US Eagles prospect Christian Ostberg will be staying in France until at least 2020 after signing a three-year contract extension with Aurillac.
Gonzalo Quesada, Mauricio Reggiardo
Two former Pumas had tremendous weekends coaching their respective French clubs. Gonzalo Quesada took Stade Français to the Challenge Cup title, defeating Gloucester in Edinburgh, France. The come-from-behind victory was simply spectacular. Added to Quesada’s Top 14 title in 2015 he really is a coach whom Argentina need back home. His move to Biarritz next season means this will not be happening just yet. Remarkably Quesada reportedly wanted to start the Iberian Pro Rugby in 2008 and going to coach San Roque. His Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2003 teammate, Mauricio Reggiardo saw Agen to victory over Biarritz on Sunday. The result means Agen are one step away from a return to the Top 14.
Marcelo Bosch, Chris Wyles
Americas veteran backs Marcelo Bosch and Chris Wyles have claimed back-to-back European titles. Both players backed up their 2016 Champions Cup title by winning again in 2017. Saracens downed Clermont on Saturday adding to their 2016 title over Racing 92. In the 2016 final Wyles played on the left wing and Bosch was a replacement. This time around Bosch joined Wyles in the starting lineup, playing at outside center. An additional Aviva Premiership title may be claimed by both in the coming weeks.
Juan Pablo Socino
There was no game for the Newcastle Falcons. Indeed the season came to an end with the club missing out on a place in the play-off’s. The big picture for the club is building and it certainly achieved what it set out to do this season. One of the most consistent players for the Falcons was Juan Pablo Socino. The 2015 Puma was named as the best inside center of the year in the Aviva Premiership. Multiple rugby specialist sources named Socino. He cannot play for Argentina based on UAR policies blocking those based in Europe from Pumas duty.
Rock Bottom Jaguares
Los Jaguares have officially hit rock bottom. There is no possible way in which the team can play any worse than they did vs the Western Force. The Argentine side put in a pathetic performance, one which infuriated an already tested public. The team lost 16-6, failing to score a try against a team that has struggled all season. Los Jaguares were so awful that they resembled a train wreck. A repeat of such a performance will see the Jaguars Super Rugby project well and truly brought into question.
Cayman Islands, Bermuda
The Cayman Islands opened their international season with a loss. The Caribbean island nation fell to the USA South Panthers, 34-5. While the USA South Panthers had home advantage and was expected to win the manner of the result sheds doubt over how the Caymans will do against a developing Mexico. Next up for the Cayman Islands is an away match against Bermuda on June 03. Bermuda were outmatches by Las Serpientes on Saturday.
USA Missing Big Names
Big name players Samu Manoa, Danny Barrett, Greg Peterson, Thretton Palamo, and incumbent captain Blaine Scully will not recover from injuries in time for the June Internationals. As such none have been named in the Eagles’ roster for June. There is no place for France-based Eric Fry and Taku Ngwenya. Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufete’e, Nick Civetta, AJ MacGinty, Cam Dolan and David Tameilau join from European clubs while Marcel Brache does so from Super Rugby. Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo, and former Sunwolves loose forward Andrew Durutalo join from the Eagles 7’s. With it being Rugby World Cup qualifying time the Eagles would ideally have all players fit.
Doubt Over Argentina’s 2019 Chances
The shambolic performance against the Western Force came just days after Argentina was confirmed as playing in the toughest Rugby World Cup pool in history. Los Pumas will take on England, France, Americas 1 and Oceania 2, a group of unparalleled difficulty. Should the team mirror performances like that of Los Jaguares against the Force then Los Pumas will not make it out of the pool. Moreover such a performance could see the potential Americas or Oceania qualifiers conceivably beating them.
Pumas 12 Position
Santiago González Iglesias was a late call-up with Jerónimo de la Fuente missing Saturday’s match against the Western Force. González Iglesias has struggled to get game time this season and is very much down the list for both inside center and fly half. de la Fuente had been the first choice 12 and was playing well. He is now out injured with a broken thumb. He is expected to miss Argentina’s home test matches next month against England and Georgia. It is very worrying for Los Pumas with González Iglesias and Juan Martín Hernández both underperforming. The latter of the two has had poor back-to-back performances in Super Rugby.
Japan 2019 Pool D
The favorite to win Pool D is Australia. The two-time winner and 2015 finalist will be joined by Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1 and Americas 2. It is a notably easier draw for the Wallabies than in 2015. This pool resembles one from Rugby World Cup 2007 more so than 2019. The reason being it is far more predictable than World Rugby would potentially have desired. Both Australia and Wales are very satisfied with the outcome. Georgia also has a simpler task than do Argentina and Italy. Overall, though, it is Japan, with the friendliest of the Band 3 nations. Fiji and Canada are the probable qualifiers in this pool. For both USA / Canada it would mark an improvement from 2015.
Eligibility Law Project Players
The votes are in, and the changes promised and spearheaded by World Rugby Vice-Chairman Agustín Pichot have been made. In fact the changes to Regulation 8 regarding international regulations have gone beyond what was hoped. The changes not only affect residency but also the ‘capturing’ of u20 and sevens players. The heavily-criticized residency rule has been stretched from three years to five. This means that countries will no longer be able to import players in the first year of a new World Cup cycle and be able to select them at the next tournament, and should put a swift end to the concept of ‘project players’ currently in wide use by leading unions.