RWC2019: Predicting the Argentina Squad

RWC2019: Predicting the Argentina Squad

With club rugby over for another season, the thoughts of many fans have been turning towards the upcoming World Cup and the squads that their teams will be selecting. However, for the teams of the Rugby Championship, their focus has had to be initially on a shortened version of their annual tournament.

The Jaguares only formed 4 years ago, but this season was by far their most successful to date as they went all the way to the Super Rugby final, where they lost to a strong Crusaders side. This team is the home of the vast majority of the Argentina squad as in recent years coaches have tried to only pick players playing within Argentina, but they have relaxed the rule of late and coach Mario Ledesma has said that he will pick overseas-based players if he does not feel that he has sufficient cover from within Argentina.

As I have done with a number of other nations, I will be continuing my “Journey to RWC2019” series with predictions of each 31-man squad for the Rugby Championship teams, starting with the Pumas. With the Rugby Championship being so close to the World Cup, I am using the squads they have picked for this tournament as the basis for my squads, taking into account the players selected and performances from the first 2 rounds of competition, while also looking at some notable names who are not included but could come into consideration. To remind you, this is not the squad that I would pick, but instead the squad that I think Ledesma will pick, which is why you may see a couple of notable overseas players miss out.


Journey to RWC2019 series:


So without further ado, I predict that Ledesma’s 31-man World Cup squad will be:

Hooker

Argentina have only taken 2 hookers in their last 2 World Cup squads, so I can’t see that changing here. Santiago Socino has become eligible after moving back to Argentina and made his debut off the bench against Australia, but I think it will be too late for him to beat out the pairing of Agustin Creevy and Julián Montoya.

Prop

Such has been the quality of Juan Figallo for club and country, I am confident that he will be considered despite playing overseas. Santiago Medrano is the incumbent home-based player at tighthead, so I see him being comfortably in the squad too. On the loosehead side, Argentina have recently relied on Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro as their starter, while Mayco Vivas appears to have edged ahead of Santiago Garcia Botta. The Jaguares scrum has not always been the most reliable this year and Figallo appeared to struggle against Argentina, so I think Ramiro Herrera will also travel to bring greater experience and options to the position.

Second Row

The Pumas have generally taken 4 locks to recent World Cups, but from the squad they have picked for the Rugby Championship, I can imagine them making do with 3 specialists and then having some cover from the back row. If this is the case, then Lucas Paulos is the unfortunate player who misses out in favour of the more experienced trio of Guido PettiTomás Lavanini and Matías Alemanno, who have been the ones involved through the first 2 rounds of the Rugby Championship.

Back Row

The last 2 World Cups have seen Argentina take 6 back rowers, but I think that this year the number will be 7 as Marcos Kremer travels as cover for both the back row and second row positions. Pablo Matera is a clear pick as he has developed into one of the best flankers in world rugby and starred in the Super Rugby final, while Juan Manuel LeguizamónJavier Ortega DesioTomás Lezana and Rodrigo Bruni bring a good balance of recent success with the Jaguares and international experience. This leaves one spot, which I feel will be taken by Facundo Isa, whose international career stalled following a move to France but he looked at home on his return to international rugby and can join Matera to create the basis of a devastating back row.

Scrum Half

The Pumas have only taken 2 players at this position to the last 2 World Cups, which will lead to a difficult decision for Ledesma. Tomás Cubelli looks nailed on for the squad having played the vast majority of minutes over the first 2 rounds of the Rugby Championship. Martín Landajo’s move to Harlequins this summer probably hinders his chances of travelling to Japan. I initially had Gonzalo Bertranou taking the second spot given his greater international experience, but it looks like Felipe Ezcurra has skipped ahead of him in the pecking order and despite limited minutes in the first 2 rounds of the Rugby Championship, he set a good tempo against Australia and also won a penalty with a strong jackal.

Fly Half

Despite having moved to France, Nicolás Sánchez is easily the best option at fly half and I imagine that he will continue to lead the backs through this tournament. Hem may not have had the best of matches in the Super Rugby final, but Joaquín Díaz Bonilla has done a fine job of helping the Jaguares to their best ever finish so looks to be Sánchez’s backup at the position. Though recent World Cup squads have only included 2 fly halves, I don’t think either of the above players have excelled so far in the Rugby Championship, so I think he may take another experienced option here in the form of Benjamín Urdapilleta.

Centre

Jerónimo De La Fuente and Matías Orlando have been a starring midfield for the Jaguares and regular partners for the Pumas too, so they are the clear picks here. Beyond that, I have gone for Matías Moroni, who has split his recent international career between wing and outside centre, and Juan Cruz Mallía, who can also provide cover at 15 if needed.

Back 3

This leaves space for 5 players in the back 3, which makes things more difficult for the European-based Santiago Cordero and Juan Imhoff, such is the strength available at the position. Bautista Delguy (currently playing for Jaguares XV in the Currie Cup after recently recovering from a season-ending injury), Emiliano Boffelli and Ramiro Moyano made a fine trio over the last year, while Joaquín Tuculet has the class and experience to potentially demote one of them to the bench. The final position was initially going to the versatile Sebastián Cancelliere, but he misses out after not featuring in the first 2 rounds of the Rugby Championship. His place instead goes to Santiago Cordero, who was given the full 80 minutes against Argentina and also has the benefit of excelling at wing or fullback, which could prove useful as the games come thick and fast.

Who do you think will make it to Japan?


As we get close to RWC2019, I will be running a fantasy rugby league on the rugby magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6

Changing Reputations from the 2019 Tour de France

Changing Reputations from the 2019 Tour de France

The Tour de France was over for another year and while the change from Team Sky to Team INEOS did not stop them winning the race, the line of British riders came to an end as Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour. In a race where some of the big names of cycling – such as Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and Tom Dumoulin – were missing, the race was wide open for many.

Before we start looking ahead to the Vuelta a España, I wanted to bring an end to this year’s Tour to look at some riders who enhanced their reputations and also a few who disappointed by not reaching the levels expected.

Reputation Enhanced

cycling Tour De France 2019 Ineos winEgan Bernal: The Colombian rode his first Grand Tour at the 2018 Tour de France as a key super-domestique for Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, finishing 15thin the General Classification. Given the joint-leadership of INEOS alongside Thomas this year, he proved to be one of the strongest in the Alps and took the yellow jersey on Stag 19’s climb of the Col d l’Iseran. With Bernal, Thomas, Froome and (according to rumours) 2019 Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz on INEOS’ books next year they are not short for quality, but as the youngest Tour de France winner since 1909, Bernal looks to be a star of the next 10 years.

Julian Alaphilippe: Bernal may have won the race, but Alaphilippe was the star of this year’s Tour and I’m so glad he was recognised with the Combativity award. Last year’s King of the Mountains was always going to be a danger for stage victories, which would give him a chance of wearing the yellow jersey, but he ended up holding the race lead for 14 stages. Rather than just defending the lead, he continued to attack, bringing life to Stage 10 when he used the crosswinds to attack the peloton. Even when people started to say that he was in the stages where he would start to lose time, he won the Individual Time Trial and then put time into most of his rivals on the Col du Tourmalet.

cycling alaphilippe macron pinot
Alaphilippe and Pinot brought pride back to French cycling

He was already the number 1 rider in the world, but in terms of Grand Tours, this race took him from a dangerous rider to a genuine GC contender.

Thibaut Pinot: Stage 10 aside (where poor positioning in the peloton as Alaphilippe attacked caused him to lose time to his GC rivals), Thibaut Pinot was one of the strongest GC competitors this year and looked so dangerous on the climbs, including his win on the Col du Tourmalet. Alongside Alaphilippe, Pinot put pride back into French cycling and would likely have challenged for the race victory over the final stages if he hadn’t been forced to abandon the race with a torn muscle in his thigh.

Caleb Ewan: Moving from the GC contenders to the sprinters, Caleb Ewan may not have been able to win the green jersey, but he was arguably the star of the sprints, with his 3 stage wins the most of any rider this year, including on the Champs-Élysées. Beyond that, though, it was the manner of his victories as he often found his success with a late surge to the first place, while his first win came after he lost his lead-out man Jasper De Buyst when he came off the road trying to bring Ewan to the front of the peloton. We seem to be seeing a changing of the guard with the sprinters, and Ewan looks like he will be at the forefront of it.

Dylan van Baarle: You have to be a high-quality rider to be representing Team INEOS at a Grand Tour, but van Baarle outdid himself this year. With some of their key mountain domestiques struggling in the final week, van Baarle took on an unfamiliar role in being one of the main men leading Thomas and Bernal up the climbs, while his 46th place on GC was by far his best finish in a Grand Tour. Without van Baarle picking up the slack in the mountains, Sky probably wouldn’t be celebrating filling the first 2 stops on the podium.

Disappointing Race

Adam Yates: winner of the Young rider classification in the 2016 Tour, where he finished 4th overall, so much has become expected of Adam Yates, especially considering how well he and brother Simon have improved their performances in Time Trials. Nominated as the Mitchelton–Scott team leader, Yates found himself dropping away from the leaders far too often and was so far behin in the GC, it allowed his brother Simon to switch priorities from supporting him to hunting stage wins just halfway through the race.

Romain Bardet: Another who found himself dropping away from the leaders far too easy in the stages, Bardet has long been the man the French have been pinning their hopes on but was invisible for much of the race. He was so far off the pace, he was allowed to get away in a couple of late breakaways to win the King of the Mountains classification, the only silver lining for a poor race.

cycling QuintanaNairo Quintana: Is Quintana the most disappointing GC rider of recent years? This year’s race saw the Colombian drop so far out of contention that he was allowed to get away in breaks, but then had one super strong day on Stage 18 where he broke the record for the quickest climb of the Col du Galibier, which put him back in GC contention, eventually finishing 8th.

André Greipel: As I mentioned when praising Caleb Ewan, we are seeing a changing of the guard in the Points classification as the young sprinters are taking over from the older racers. At 37 years old, it looks like Greipel’s time competing for Grand Tour stage victories may be over as he only managed to finish in the top 10 of a stage once – 6th on the Champs-Élysées.

Doug Ryder: Finishing off with team owner rather than a rider. Despite having 30 stage victories to his name, Dimension Data chose to not include Mark Cavendish in their line-up for the Tour. The team were initially planning to include him but were overruled by Ryder despite Cavendish appearing to fit the team’s strategy better. Though he has struggled with illness in recent years, his replacement Giacomo Nizzolo managed one 4th and two 7th-place finishes, while Edvald Boasson Hagen finished 5th on the Champs-Élysées… not really the success they would have been hoping for.