Rugby World Cup 2019: The Year of the Puma?

Agustin Creevy

Argentina have revealed their provisional 46-man squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan this autumn and there are a fair few familiar faces. They are familiar to us, of course, but also familiar with each other, head coach Mario Ledesma selecting 34 players from the marvellous Jaguares outfit that fell to the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final this month.

Having so many men from the franchise is an enormous advantage for the Pumas and stands them in good stead for the tournament. The Argentines have been excellent at recent editions and another surge to the last-four is a distinct possibility given the impressive nature of their squad, though it is the Jaguares influence that should get the South Americans most excited.

It will also be the cause for alarm for many England Rugby fans, given that only two of England, France and Argentina can qualify from Pool C.

Unity and understanding; as a collective, that is what the 34 Jaguares players bring to the table. They know each other’s game inside and out, they know what their teammate is going to do before he even thinks about doing it, and they know how to work as a unit, rather than a band of individuals.

World Cups are the crème de la crème, where rugby’s elite meet their match and the margin for error somehow shrinks further. Matches are played on a knife edge and decided by small factors that build up into hugely-significant, game-winning ones. Experience with the man standing next to you is one such factor, making everything slicker and handing you an edge over your opponent.

What’s more, those that have been competing in Super Rugby have clear quality, as well as that ever-so-important familiarity. As we have mentioned, the Buenos Aires side made it all the way to the showpiece event in Christchurch, emerging victorious in 11 of their 16 regular-season games, including a first ever triumph away to the Hurricanes. They’re not just a group that have played a fair amount together, they’re a group that have developed a taste for winning, too.

However, the Jaguares battlers are not the only ones bolstering Ledesma’s side. Among those that ply their trade in Europe are Nicolas Sanchez and Facundo Isa; that’s a stellar duo. The former is the orchestrator-in-chief and has the skill-set to unlock almost any defence, with his Stade Francais statistics from this calendar year proving what a delightful playmaker he is. Sanchez has amassed 12 try-assists, beaten 14 defenders, and achieved an average gain of 13.2m for each carry – this is a fly-half that can take the game to the opposition. The 30-year-old’s strong kicking percentage of 83% makes him yet more important, though he can occasionally lack the range.

Isa, on the other hand, is an absolute specimen, powering through backlines and would-be tacklers. A tireless, ever-willing runner, the number eight is a weapon that can be used over and over again to bludgeon and, eventually, wear down a defence. His average metre-gain is half that of Sanchez, but it is worth remembering he is almost always carrying into traffic and putting in the graft work, whilst also building up a splendid tackle-count of his own, doing so with superb accuracy.

With these two gainline monsters playing starring roles for the Pumas, the team will no doubt have a chance of making it deep into the tournament, especially when they have Tomas Cubelli and Martin Landajo as first-choice options at scrum-half. Their combined total of 151 caps means there is plenty of experience and knowledge in a crucial position.

All this hype may seem pointless given Argentina’s dire run of results, Ledesma’s recruits failing to win any of their last six international match-ups. However, they were underwhelming in the build up to England 2015, yet still managed a semi-final appearance, coming close to defeating Australia in the closing stages before Adam Ashley-Cooper but an abrupt end to their hopes.

The next few weeks in the Rugby Champuonship should be more instructive with regards to how they will fare in Japan, and we’ll be watching closely.

By Ed Alexander

11 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup 2019: The Year of the Puma?

  1. Hard to state whether it’ll be the yr of the Puma as the Jags aren’t the Argentine national side & they’ll be playing in a different comp come Nov. OTOH, having players whom are familiar with each other’s game will likely benefit them. Whatever & however, if Engjand are too much in awe of them & or France, it will inhibit them. To get to the final, let alone win it, they will have to beat other teams as well. Therefore, their group stage has to be seen as a series if games they just have to go & win. Do that & they qualify. If they don’t, then their chances later on in the tournament, if they get that far, are diminished.

    1. From past experience club form rarely translates to the national side.
      When Glasgow Warriors won the Pro12 Scotland were still pants
      When Leinster were the dominant force in Europe Ireland weren’t that great
      Whilst Sarries are the dominant force in Europe England haven’t been that good

      1. That may be so, but in this instance, The Jags are virtually an all international team, whereas Glasgow & Leinster weren’t. Also the WC is a 4 Yrly, 1 off comp. The pressure will be @ its peak.

        1. Glas/Lein both had a 60% stake in the national squad at the time (bit more balanced now) but my main point is, that while lots of people saying if the pumas can perform like the Jaguares they will go far, given how the Jags struggled against a well organised press defence in the final and how the same can be said of the NZ game at the weekend I don’t see it translating to the international stage.

          1. Yes, agree. Whilst The Jags’ success may help their Int’al side, esp confidence wise, the WC will be a higher level of intensity.

  2. I hope the Argies get into the final 4. They have worked damn hard at getting their game “Right”. Add the two French based players to the mix, I think they may go all the way

  3. Can’t respond to Championship article, so have make do here. Easy in retro, but thought Hutch was a bit generous to NZ with 23. Reckoned on maybe 14 or so, esp with a 3rd of the likely AB starting line up involved. However, after seemingly getting on top by the break, they were scoreless in the 2nd 1/2! Too many errors & missed opportunities. OTOH, Argentina, whom were dogged, were held to 1 up & under try which could have gone anywhere. Prob see a different NZ lineup nxt Sat for SA when the Cantabs will likely return. Oz? Well, Oz were Oz. What, with the usual disallowed try, ref dishing OZ the usual yellow, they were nevertheless still in touch @ 1/2 time. However, they then fell off a couple of tackles & the winger went needlessly AWOL in a ruck leaving a free run down the touch line for the Saffa 1/2back to score. Beale made decisive contributions late on for a consolation try, but they need better decisions from the coach & players. On to nxt week then. 2 home wins?

  4. Argentina will get out of the group stage. More than capable of beating France and England. Expect England’s pack to struggle. England will have to produce Ireland form to get a result. Produce Wales/Scotland form and they will lose.

    1. Why would England’s pack struggle? With MV/Marler, Geo, Sinck, Wilson, Itoje, Kruis, Underhill/Currey & BV, they should @ least have parity, certainly in the set piece. They’ll need to ensure that the back 3 get their share in the loose, but this should also be possible shouldn’t it? Surely It’all be more down to whether Youngs & Farrell, presumably being picked, kick possession back to Argdntina all day shouldn’t it? OTOH, if these 2 do over exercise the boot, it could be a case of, ‘Don’t Cry for me Sweet Chariot’.

  5. Sorry Don. What England team have been watching? Mako, Billy and Maro are the best in there positions. England look a much better side with the “heavy traffic” ball carriers as per the Ireland game. England’s World Cup campaign comes down to key places staying healthy. The replacements for the three Sarries boys are decent, but not in the same league.

    1. The same one as you Mark. As said already elesewhere, teams suffer WC injuries. If yr x3 ball carriers are all injured, are you stating that England are effed? Presumably you’re reffing to MV, BV & Kruis? Can’t recall if all 3 were out v Wales, Scotland, but surely these 2 games were lost & almost lost, due to wrong tactics being used. Namely kicking possession away & falling off in defence respectively. Both from winning positions @ 1/2 time. And anyway, a team will surely need a bit more than predictable ball carriers to win the WC? Can’t nec see England losing much in say, Marler over MV, or Launch over Kruis as katter’s a more rounded player. Maybe England don’t have a bosh man like BV, but then the de-selected Morgan could have taken up the slack & added other dimensions to the 8 post. As it’s prob unlikely that all 3 of the aforementioned will be injured @ once however, then England should cope. If BV is sidelined, then maybe practically, Wilson will have to punch his weight instead. There are options & like other teams, England will have to make do.. not least with careful selections in key posi’s. That’s all.


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