Friday 15 February 2019

Travelling 186,000km this season has been a big problem for us - Pumas boss

Nahuel Tetaz will line out against Ireland tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile
Nahuel Tetaz will line out against Ireland tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Back in 2007 when Argentina's request to join the Six Nations was flatly rejected, the Pumas were lift in limbo until they were eventually accepted into the Rugby Championship five years later.

Joining the southern hemisphere's elite forced Argentina into rethinking how they play the game, the results of which were seen at the last World Cup, but there are certain aspects of their demanding schedule that they may never get used to.

The Pumas arrived in Dublin earlier this week having racked up over 50 long-haul flights this season which amounted to a staggering 186,000km.

The glamour of professional rugby is there for all to see but the gruelling demands that these Argentinian players have had to cope with is something that may have to be looked at in the future.

The Rugby Championship aside, the Jaguares, whom Argentina want all of their players playing for, are regularly on the move for their Super Rugby commitments.

Not that they are complaining but it's evidently something that is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.

Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade in relaxed mood last night despite demanding schedule. Photo: Sportsfile
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade in relaxed mood last night despite demanding schedule. Photo: Sportsfile

"That's one of our biggest problems," head coach Daniel Hourcade explained.

"In the last season we travelled 186,000km so probably four times around the world. How do you get used to that? But it is our reality.

"We want the competition to play week-by-week and we are really happy about that. We have only just started, two seasons, and we only have 34 professional players.

"Our problem is not the amount of players we have, it's the competition we have.

"We only have one tournament with one team so few players can develop at the top level. We would be better to be in the northern hemisphere but we are not allowed be there."

The Six Nations rejection still irks Hourcade but on the flip side, their expansive style has been enhanced. Results this season don't reflect that but two years out from the World Cup, Hourcade is happy with where his side are.

"We have done many of the objectives we had proposed but there are several ones we haven't gotten yet," he admitted.

"The Jaguares individually have made huge progress but perhaps the reason these haven't happened yet is because we are playing the top teams in the world.

"Rugby nowadays demands you to play a different type of rugby than what we used to play in Argentina.

"We used to play with the forwards, now that's not enough to win and if you consider we mostly play against southern hemisphere teams, it's not enough.

"If our competition had been in the northern hemisphere, that change would've been a bit slower. It wouldn't have been necessary to change so quickly."

Hourcade's hands remained tied in terms of the players he can select. The Argentinian Rugby Union want all of the country's players to play for the Jaguares so that they can build their culture.

It means that the likes of Racing's Juan Imhoff, who was devastating against Ireland two years ago cannot play for the Pumas.

"These are politic decisions and politics will decide if that changes or not," Hourcade maintains.

"Perhaps it is not ideal to have players playing in Europe and then bringing them to play in the Rugby Championship, which is a different type of rugby.

"It's a problem for us. If we have a player playing in a different style of rugby and then you have to bring him back to play a different style.

"What I really want is to bring them home and play with us for the whole season."

Hourcade comes face-to-face with Joe Schmidt again tomorrow, two years after he masterminded Ireland's World Cup downfall.

It remains a sore point for the Kiwi but for Hourcade, playing Ireland beings back all kinds of special memories.

"It was probably one of the best moments. But Ireland did not have a full squad. There were some very important players missing: (Paul) O'Connell, their captain and (Johnny) Sexton was injured.

"Also, some other players were missing and we took advantage of that but this is a totally different game.

"For us, it was a huge challenge to change our style of play without losing our passion, our traditional Argentinian values and that was why that World Cup was so important. We made the change the way we wanted."

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