Pumas seek repeat of '07 semi heroics

2015-09-10 14:59
Daniel Hourcade (AFP)

Paris - A battle-hardened Argentina head to the Rugby World Cup bidding to repeat the heroics of the 2007 edition when they stormed to a third-place finish.

Of the seven tournaments Los Pumas have played in, they have only qualified for the knockout stages three times, in 1999, 2007 and 2011.

Four years ago, Argentina finished second in their pool behind England, going down 33-10 in a fighting display to overall winners New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

The South Americans have been drawn alongside the All Blacks in Pool C this time around, along with Georgia, Namibia and Tonga.

The Pumas kick off their campaign against New Zealand at Wembley on September 20, going on to play Georgia five days later at Gloucester's Kingsholm. Then follow matches against Tonga and Namibia on October 4 and 11, both at Leicester's City Stadium.

It will be interesting to see whether coach Daniel Hourcade pitches his first team into the fray against the All Blacks or keeps back a few players for the must-win matches against Georgia and Tonga, two sides known for their love of physical confrontation.

As potential runners-up in Pool C, Argentina will be looking beyond the group stage to a quarter-final against the winners of Pool D, where France, Ireland and possibly Italy will realistically be fighting it out for top spot.

The Agustin Creevy-captained side will arrive in England in buoyant mood on the back of a solid Rugby Championship during which they notched up a first ever win over South Africa, in Durban.

That 37-25 victory wasn't backed up on home soil, but an away win over the Springboks is not to be sniffed at.

"To beat the Springboks you must be mentally strong," coach Hourcade said.

"We played well and won the mental battle against one of the strongest rugby nations in the world."

The Argentinian game remains based around a strong scrum, hooker and skipper Creevy leading a solid front five backed up by a dynamic backrow boasting the likes of veteran flankers Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

Goal-kicking fly-half Nicolas Sanchez will also be charged with opening up the backline featuring "magician" Juan Martin Hernandez, electric wingers Horacio Agulla and Juan Imhoff, scorer of a hat-trick in that famous win over the 'Boks, Joaquin Tuculet and Marcelo Bosch, the latter also an outstanding long-range penalty taker.

One ex-player backing the Pumas for some glory at the World Cup is legend Felipe Contepomi, who says the Rugby Championships which yearly pitches Argentina against the might of the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa is to thank.

"They'll be better prepared for the World Cup (because of their involvement in the Rugby Championship), these guys are not afraid of the All Blacks," Contepomi told ESPN.co.uk

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