It’s international rugby that gives us the bulk of our team this week. The Americas Pacific Challenge gave us two strong winners to pick from. No Canadians were considered and while the USA had a couple players in contention ultimately none of them made the cut either. As such it’s a heavy South American slant this week as other selections come from the Rugby Championship and Colombia’s big win over Peru. Only one North American is included, and his name will be no surprise.
1 – Matías Benítez (Uruguay) A tip of the cap to Carlos Muzzio of Mont-de-Marsan but it’s the Teros loosehead who earns his place this week. The veteran returned to contention this year after six years in the international wilderness and proves that Uruguay have depth where it counts. One half of the demolition job on the Tongan scrum.
2 – Gaspar Baldunciel (Argentina XV) The hooker with the dancing feet keeps contenders Agustín Creevy, Germán Kessler, and Peter Malcolm out of the side. One lineout overthrow aside Baldunciel was in brilliant form against Canada, showing off his exceptional athleticism with multiple sidesteps past hapless defenders and even a breakaway try. Could very well be on the plane to Europe next month with the Pumas short of backup.
3 – Mario Sagario (Uruguay ‘A’) Completely obliterated his opposites at the set piece, despite being outweighed by a considerable margin. Is under increasing pressure for his spot from understudy Juan Echeverría in particular but has responded to the challenge and looks back to his best.
4 – Marcos Kremer (Argentina) Los Pumas lost yet again but a few players stood up against the Australian challenge. One of those was the 20-year-old earning just his first test start. Gave everything in the tight-loose and was one of his team’s top tacklers despite missing the last 10 minutes due to an unfortunately yellow card.
5 – Franco Molina (Argentina XV) Suddenly Argentina are oozing with young talent in the second row and Molina should join his Pumitas teammate in the senior side sooner than later. Simply outstanding against Canada with his lineout skills exemplary and his work around the pitch rewarded with a try. A blue-chip prospect who is set for a long career at the top.
6 – Pablo Matera (Argentina) Argentina’s best player this season was at it once more against the Wallabies. Hurled himself against the gold jerseys with ball in hand and continuously felled the opposition runners. How his body has withstood the punishment is almost as impressive as his form.
7 – Andrew Durutalo (Ealing Trailfinders) Another game, another try, another man-of-the-match award. The only thing stopping the Eagles star from running away with the RFU Championship player-of-the-year award is a certain Bristol flanker named Steven Luatua. With the casualties mounting in the Premiership just a few weeks into the season, it might not be long until we see either or both in England’s top division.
8 – Sebastián Mejía (Colombia) If there was a professional competition in South America, the Tucanes captain would not be far down the list of signings. He consistently sets the standard for his country and delivered once again with a commanding try-scoring performance in the win over Peru.
9 – Sebastián Cancelliere (Argentina XV) While Mr’s Landajo and Cubelli continue to slog it out with the Pumas the next generation of greatness is very close to breaking through. Some would argue that Cancelliere has already done enough to warrant Pumas selection. Scored two more tries against Canada and just needs to tidy up his kicking game to become the complete package.
10 – Juan Cruz González (Argentina XV) His 21 points against Canada were somewhat drowned out by the 71 points in all put on the board. Lavishly talented but often overlooked because of his size, González even switched to scrumhalf when Cancelliere went off for repairs and didn’t skip a beat.
11 – Federico Favaro (Uruguay ‘A’) The scrum won the contest but Favaro decided by how much. He enjoyed a wonderful match, scoring two tries and going a perfect five-for-five with the boot including three from wide angles to make it 22 points in all. In majestic form at the moment, he will be difficult to leave out of the senior Teros side come November.
12 – José Manuel Diosa (Colombia) Another talented player from a country on the rise. An all-around excellent effort saw him convert six from seven tries, one he scored himself, and added a penalty to make it 20 points even. He’ll test himself in the revamped Sudamérica ‘A’ division next year.
13 – Santiago Mare (Argentina XV) Diosa’s excellence shifts Mare out one spot but the Argentine youngster had to be included. Didn’t score himself but had a direct role in creating multiple scores both with his passing game and subtle dabs with the boot. It’s not often that players demonstrate such vision at a young age.
14 – Bautista Delguy (Argentina XV) Another special talent with undoubted star potential. Similar to Mare had to be shifted slightly as he played his preferred fullback against Canada. Scored twice and it didn’t even seem like he hit high gear. The natural successor to Joaquín Tuculet in the Pumas lineup.
15 – Martín Bustos Moyano (Bayonne) Earned his place with a captain’s effort. Eight penalty goals and all 24 points in his team’s hugely important road win over Aurillac. Bayonne had won only two from six before that. This could prove a turning point in the season if they can rally at home against this week.