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.
Los Teros lot but were extremely close, falling in the final play of the game against the Argentina XV. This would have been an upset victory and just Uruguay’s second ever in history. Make no mistake the Estadio Charrúa High Performance Center is working. Players are being developed and are now able to have the gap bridged from clubs rugby to international level. Santiago Arata and Juan Manuel Cat both had excellent performances for Uruguay.
Costa Rica is closer to gaining Full World Rugby membership status. The Central American Republic is seeking admission by rugby’s global governing body. A decision will be made by World Rugby in November. Membership for Costa Rica would be historic. It would be the first country of Central America included. Over time Belize, El Salvador Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama may all follow Costa Rica. Of them Guatemala is to join Costa Rica in competing in the 2018 Sudamerica 4 Naciones B. Nicaragua joined international competition this year while Honduras is to do so in 2018. It is exciting times for Costa Rica who have qualified to play in the new Sudamérica 4 Naciones B in 2018.
Chris Wyles and AJ MacGinty
The past, present and future of the USA Eagles was in fine form in England on Friday. Former captain Chris Wyles crossed for two tries to help Saracens to a 25-3 win over the Worcester Warriors. Further north and the Sale Sharks put in their best performance for many years. The Greater-Manchester side humiliated Gloucester, winning 57-10. MacGinty converted six tries and added a penalty. His impressive performance is welcome news with the November Internationals quickly approaching.
Juan Imhoff, Benjamín Urdapilleta
Argentina also had players impressing this weekend at the elite level in Europe. Unlike the USA, those featuring will not be playing for their country next month. In France Juan Imhoff had a great match at fullback. He scored a try and made multiple line breaks, proving to be highly effective on the counterattack. Facundo Isa had another strong performance for Toulon but the star of the weekend was Benjamín Urdapilleta. He scored a 19-point haul for Castres who won by six points against 2017 winners, Clermont.
Los Socinos – Juan Pablo Socino and Santiago Socino
In England two Argentine players caught the eye this weekend. They were the Newcastle Falcons pairing of Juan Pablo Socino and Santiago Socino. The brothers both had excellent performances. Juan Pablo scored the opening try of the match while Santiago looked to be a genuine international level hooker. Like Mario Ledesma and Agustín Creevy, Santiago Socino was converted from flanker to hooker as an adult. His progress at the Falcons has been genuinely exceptional. He is still young at 25 and is uncapped. A possible option at hooker for Argentina in the future.
From the kick-off Argentina’s night started poorly. At this level it is unacceptable to allow a kick-off to bounce. Jerónimo de la Fuente scrambled to gather it and then a nervous pass from the resulting ruck was badly handled. Early Pumas errors, totally unforced. Fast-forward 19 minutes and it was game over. New Zealand had scored three tries and led 22-3. A combination of New Zealand skill, execution and Argentine frailties explain the start. The All Blacks scored two further tries compared to Argentina’s one to win 36-10. Daniel Hourcade was again out coached and the UAR’s player selection policy again failed.
SANZAAR Rugby Championship
The Rugby Championship has a flawed model as was demonstrated on Saturday. With Australia and South Africa battling out a draw in Bloemfontein, New Zealand were champions with two games yet to play. How could this be? The answer is simple – every year New Zealand has had home advantage in rounds 2, 3 and 4. Following a round 1 game in Sydney the All Blacks have faced the Wallabies, Pumas and Springboks in that order. This madness must end with New Zealand having away games in early rounds. This would make it harder to win the title with 1, let alone 2, rounds remaining.
Los Pumas 7s
A solid Day One in Munich saw Los Pumas 7s qualifying for the Quarter Finals of the Oktoberfest 7s. On Day Two Argentina was not the same. The South Americans lost to Fiji and also fell in their final fixture, losing 19-17 against Germany. A win over Ireland in-between saw the highlight of an otherwise disappointing Saturday effort. Chile was also present in Munich, playing in the Pool of Death against Australia, Fiji and Ireland. Wins were too much to ask for but quality tries were scored by Los Cóndores.
Lucas Noguera Paz
The successor to Marcos Ayerza is Lucas Noguera Paz, a vastly more inexperienced player. This year’s Rugby Championship has underlined Argentina’s extreme lack of a quality loosehead prop. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro has been used in the position but he, too, has failed. Noguera Paz is officially the starting player and long-term replacement for Ayerza, who before that replaced Rodrigo Roncero. The difference in quality is staggering but the age difference also notable. Noguera Paz was thrust into the role due to the PladAR system and UAR policy regarding foreign-based players. He will earn his 40th cap against Australia, just one day after turning 24. Roncero was 35 and keeping Ayerza on the bench in the 2012 Rugby Championship. There are clear reasons why the current Pumas scrum is so substandard.
The curse continues. Argentina have lost another player for the season after facing New Zealand. In earlier Rugby Championship tournaments injuries saw the season ending prematurely for Gonzalo Camacho, Juan Figallo and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Saturday’s match in Buenos Aires saw Tomás Cubelli, Nicolás Sánchez and Guido Petti all leave through injury. Of them Cubelli is confirmed as being out for the year. It leaves a hole so significant that a Rugby Championship debutant will be required to play deputy to Martín Landajo in Mendoza this coming weekend. It is a crushing blow in an already brittle year which will conclude with away tests against England, Italy and Ireland in November.