Buenos Aires - Argentina's Juan Martin Hernandez will miss the Rugby World Cup after failing to recover in time after knee surgery, reducing to 10 the number of veterans of the 2007 tournament in the Pumas squad named on Tuesday.
The talented Racing Metro flyhalf nicknamed "Mago" (magician), one of the outstanding players of the 2007 finals in France where Argentina finished third, has not fully recovered from a knee ligament operation in March.
"He wasn't in condition to get there," coach Santiago Phelan said as he left Hernandez out of the 30-man squad for the tournament in New Zealand starting on September 9 which he announced at a news conference at San Isidro Club on the outskirts of the capital.
The squad, captained by Felipe Contepomi, contains 17 forwards includes seven front rowers, and 13 backs, a decision Phelan said was taken in view of the wear and tear in the pack.
Phelan said the 28-year-old Hernandez, who also had back surgery early in 2010, had not been able to play for his country for two years so they had been preparing as if he would not be available.
"The team were working without 'Juani', with Felipe (Contepomi) as number 10 and other alternatives. Hernandez's inclusion was going to be an addition rather than someone being left out," Phelan said.
Nevertheless, Hernandez's absence will be a major setback to Argentina's hopes of at least coming close to their remarkable performance of four years ago with talismanic captain Agustin Pichot and other leading players having retired.
"He made a great effort to get there but in our heads it was as if he wasn't going to be with us. It would have been a plus.
"This doesn't take away (the fact) that it's an important loss for his qualities as a player and a person."
Of the 10 survivors of the previous World Cup, seven are forwards including hooker Mario Ledesma and loose forward Juan Fernandez Lobbe.
The Pumas play Wales in Cardiff on August 20 as their last major outing before the tournament. They also meet English club side Worcester Warriors three days later.
Argentina start their World Cup campaign against 2003 champions England on September 10. They also meet Romania, Scotland and Georgia in Pool B.
"We believe we've put together the most balanced squad for the four matches," said Phelan, who played at the 1999 and 2003 World Cups.
"Our objective today is to get in the best shape to (the match on) September 10 which will be our debut against England. All the work we're doing day to day is with that match in mind."
Forwards: Juan Fernandez Lobbe (Toulon), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (Lyon), Leonardo Senatore (Gimnasia Rosario), Alejandro Campos (Agen), Alvaro Galindo (Racing Metro), Patricio Albacete (Toulouse), Manuel Carizza (Biarritz), Julio Farias Cabello (Tucuman RC), Mariano Galarza (unattached), Tomas Vallejos (Harlequins), Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers), Agustin Creevy (Montpellier), Juan Figallo (Montpellier), Maximiliano Bustos (Montpellier), Mario Ledesma (Clermont), Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais), Martin Scelzo (Agen)
Backs: Martin Rodriguez (Stade Francais), Horacio Agulla (Leicester Tigers), Juan Jose Imhoff (Duendes), Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter), Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino (Montpellier), Agustin Gosio (Newman), Gonzalo Tiesi (Stade Francais), Santiago Fernandez (Montpellier), Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz), Felipe Contepomi (Stade Francais, captain), Nicolas Sanchez (Bordeaux-Begles), Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish), Nicolas Vergallo (Toulouse)