Rugby World Cup 2011

Scelzo not intimidated by AB's

2011-10-06 08:50
Martin Scelzo displaying his jubilation after Argentina's win over Scotland recently (Getty Images)

Auckland - Captain Felipe Contepomi and regular hooker Mario Ledesma are sure of becoming the first Argentines to play in three Rugby World Cup quarterfinals this weekend.

Prop Martin Scelzo hopes he'll join them at some point on Eden Park, where the Pumas will face New Zealand.

The 35-year-old Scelzo has been surpassed as the starting tighthead by young Pumas tyro Juan Figallo, but he's come off the bench in all four of Argentina's pool matches in the past month and will likely feature in the reserves again on Sunday.

"Every quarterfinal is special," he told Argentina's domestic media. "They're great. You have to enjoy it."

One thing he was confident of, he said, "On Sunday night I'll be celebrating."

The Pumas have never beaten New Zealand, and Scelzo has met the All Blacks only once (2006) in an international career which began in 1996. But the France-based prop was far from intimidated.

"We Argentines like massive challenges, and we showed that in the last World Cup," Scelzo said.

"I don't think New Zealand should underestimate this Argentine team, which has become a world power. They also can't afford to relax knowing what happened four years ago (when they lost to France in the quarterfinals). They are the best team in the world today, but there are no favourites in a knockout match over 80 minutes. We are a difficult team to play against."

In the Pumas' first Cup quarterfinal in 1999, lost to France 47-26 at Lansdowne Road, Ledesma started and Scelzo and Contepomi played off the bench.

Four years ago in Paris, the trio started in the 19-13 quarterfinal win over Scotland. That team exceeded the 1999 team's fifth-place finish with an incredible third.

Loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero, in the front row of the 2007 side, was the only major injury concern this week after straining his left thigh muscle two weeks ago in the 13-12 win over Scotland, but he was back training.

Argentina names its side on Friday, and coach Santiago Phelan is expected to restore most of the team which edged Scotland, meaning the return of lock Manuel Carizza, winger Gonzalo Camacho and fullback Martin Rodriguez.

Centre Marcelo Bosch, limited by injuries to nine caps in the past four years, hoped he and his fellow Pumas unleash the match of their lives on Sunday.

"The only chance we have is if all fifteen come to play and produce a great game, both individually and collectively," Bosch said.

"We have to make as few errors as possible and seize the opportunities we have, and hope New Zealand does not have a good day.

"I've never had the chance to play against the All Blacks, but doing it in the World Cup on their home ground will be an unforgettable experience.

"We achieved what we wanted to do by reaching the quarterfinals but we don't want to rest on our laurels. I think we can do more. Dreaming doesn't cost anything, everything is possible."

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