Tuesday 24 September 2019

Well-travelled Pumas pitch up for one final battle before long journey home

Guido Petti: finding tour tough going. Photo: Sportsfile
Guido Petti: finding tour tough going. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Few sportsmen rack up air miles like Argentinian rugby players. Their travel demands are phenomenal.

Most of the squad play Super Rugby for the Jaguares and their campaign began in Durban, South Africa on April 8. Then came Pretoria and Johannesburg before heading back to Buenos Aires for a stretch and then the Test team hit the road for San Juan and Santa Fé.

The Super Rugby squad then made their way to Australia for a couple of weeks to close out their season, before the Rugby Championship took them to Bloemfontein, New Plymouth and Canberra.

This month, they play on their fourth different continent and have taken on England and Italy before landing in Dublin.

It all adds up to more than 50 flights in one calendar year and countless nights in hotel rooms. As they wandered around Grafton St yesterday, you could forgive them for just wanting to go home.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that their results have been so poor, they don't know where they are half the time.

"It's a learning curve for us," assistant coach Pablo Bouza said at the team's latest hotel last night.

"This is our second year competing in the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, and I think we are in better shape, compared to playing England this time last season.

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"It's different for our team, we're the only team in the world that play about 30 matches together since January."

For the players, this week is about trying to stave off the thoughts of the holidays to come.

"A lot of trips, a lot of time away from our families and friends, the people we like. It's tough," second-row Guido Petti confessed.

"But if you want the good things of playing international rugby you have to take the bad things as well.

"So, I think we'd prefer the good ones and take the bad ones as well. It is tough, but it's important to keep doing it.

"I think we're tired, but we know that it's the last match and we want to end this year the best we can.

"It's been very tough, maybe some good matches and some not. The last one against Italy was very good for us, to lift our spirits, and now we hope this game feels good and we continue playing the way we want to.

"Of course we have it (the end of the season) in our mind, but we are thinking of this match.

"It's just one week, the last one for us, so we really want to not just get the result, but play the game well."

That win over Italy was just Argentina's eighth since the 2015 World Cup quarter-final meeting with Ireland, a game in which Petti played a big role as one of the large Pumas enforcers whose work in contact caused the men in green all sorts of problems.

Despite the lack of results since, the 22-year-old lock is confident that the experience of playing against the best players in the southern hemisphere will stand to the squad.

"I think that makes our team more dynamic," he said.

"We are playing all the year with another velocity to when you're playing the European teams. I think that's the advantage of playing with them but we also know the strength of the Europeans and the short game of the forwards and they're so physical as well.

"I think there are different types of games, both of them have advantages so it's good playing them both."

It's good for their rugby, but you suspect they'll be glad to have a break when it's all over.

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