The 2017 Rugby Championship has not gone well for Argentina. The scrum frailties and discipline have been well documented. What has not is the horrendous defense with Daniel Hourcade’s side being one try away from a record.
With one match left to play Argentina have conceded 26 tries in the tournament. This is more than the total from the 2013 side, a team under extreme criticism which saw Santiago Phelan resign. Contributing to his departure was a player revolt.
Daniel Hourcade was offered the job at the eleventh hour. Phelan had stood down on October 21 2013, just weeks before the first of Los Pumas’ November Internationals against England on November 09.
It ended a coaching regime which dated back to 2008. Phelan took over from Marcelo Loffreda who, after Rugby World Cup 2007, went on to become Head Coach of the Leicester Tigers.
Phelan’s first match in charge was against Scotland in Rosario in June 2008. His last was at the same venue against Australia in the 2013 Rugby Championship. His overall record was 13 wins, one draw and 31 defeats from 45 matches played.
Los Pumas’ inability to win a match in two Rugby Championship tournament’s was Phelan’s ultimate failure. Indeed, he coached Argentina to wins over Italy, Scotland and Wales in November Internationals and also over England and France in June.
Hourcade’s record at present stands at 14 wins from 47 matches played. He thereby has one more victory than Phelan from two additional matches played. The victories that people tend to talk about the most were in 2014 and 2015. Them being Rugby Championship wins over Australia and South Africa in Mendoza and Durban and the win over Ireland at the World Cup.
Stalling or Falling?
Since the Rugby World Cup the record has capitulated. Los Pumas’ recorded a win over South Africa in Salta in August 2016, the last victory against a Tier 1 opponent. Since then they have beaten Japan and Georgia but have lost the other fourteen matches.
Hourcade’s coaching tactics were to get Argentina winning though scoring tries. In his vision goal-kicking was not a sufficient means of winning against Rugby Championship opposition. Without question the two wins he has achieved and the win over Ireland featured multiple tries.
Yet his defensive arrangements have been inefficient and exposed by opponents. This has not only been Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but also England and Scotland.
Against New Zealand on Saturday the All Blacks ran in tries by having numerical advantages. Both of Kieran Read’s tries were with New Zealand having more attackers on hand than the Argentine defenders. Video analysis from Diego Albanese demonstrated this.
New Zealand scored five tries, the same number as in 2016 for the corresponding fixture. In 2013 and 2014 the number was four while in 2012 it was seven. Argentina scored two tries in 2012 and 2016 compared, one in 2014 and 2017 and zero in 2013.
New Zealand’s ability to score with consistency has not been counteracted by Argentina’s attacking approach under Hourcade. This represents two flaws – (a) not scoring enough tries and (b) conceding too many tries. The problems are structural and need addressing. Hourcade’s contract is up after November. If he stays then rethinking is mandatory.
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