Friday 19 July 2019

Puma eager to play his part to solve front row conundrum

Short-term signing Eusebio brought in to cover hooker may now help with loose head prop crisis

Munster's Eusebio Guinazu is eager to make his first appearance for the province. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster's Eusebio Guinazu is eager to make his first appearance for the province. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Declan Rooney

Anthony Foley's decision to bring hooker Eusebio Guiñazú into the Munster fold earlier this season could prove to be one of the best pieces of business conducted in the province this year.

Initially the 38-times capped Argentinian was signed on a four-month deal as cover for Munster's injured hookers Damien Varley, Mike Sherry and Niall Scannell who were all injured at the time.

In the coming weeks it looks like he might have to shift one slot to the left to cover for the injured looseheads Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin.

The 32-year-old front row, who hails from the land of gnarly props in Mendoza in the north of Argentina, has had his own short-term injury problems.

His first Munster start was put on hold because of a hamstring strain, but now that he is fit again, he is ready to prove his worth to the squad.

"It is okay; it is much better. It was my hamstring; it was nothing really big. It just needed a few weeks to get right and I was on the bench at the weekend and hopefully I will be fit again for this game on Saturday. I am really looking forward to being back in the team.

"I was named to play in that game against Dragons and I think it was one or two days before the game when I felt something in my hamstring. I couldn't play the game and it was a shame because I was really looking forward to starting but hopefully that is all behind me.

"For now I just have the short-term contract. I just want to get my short-term goals first. I want to get back from injury because I feel I can give something to this team. I just need to be playing, I need to be fit and back playing.

"Once I am fit I can think about the next goal but for now it is just about getting my place in the team," said Guiñazú.

The powerful front row had known all about Munster and its traditions before he finally came to the province in October. He made the move from English Premiership side Bath, where he has spent the previous two years.

And there was no avoiding the history lesson of the red shirt when he crossed paths with Peter Stringer at The Rec.

"Peter is a legend. We went to Bath almost at the same time. He is a great guy, he has a lot of experience I learned a lot from him. I actually met him before Bath when we played with the Barbarians in 2007.


"Then in Bath I met him again and I was lucky and proud to play with him. We lived just 200 metres apart in Bath and I like him. After all he has achieved in his career he is still very professional and shares his experience.

"When I heard about Munster it was great. I didn't even doubt it when I heard about it. I was really proud to come here, they are such a great team and I always heard about the passionate support they have here. For me when I got the call I was very proud and I am just trying to enjoy my rugby over here," he said.

Guiñazú has certainly clocked up plenty of air miles in his 10 seasons as a pro. He has played key roles at Toulon, Agen, Biarritz and Toulouse in the Top14, taken in a season of Super Rugby with the Stormers in South Africa, and also returned home to Mendoza for a stint with his home club for a spell.

And while he recognises that hopes of a recall to the Argentinian squad for the World Cup might be beyond him, he'll never give up hope of representing his country again.

"I would love to play for Argentina again but there is a new coach there now and since he took over I have not been selected. The hope will always be there to get selected but at some point I must understand that he has other plans.

"For me it is one of my biggest pleasures to play for my country. I did it for 11 years so I will always be ready for it. If I am honest with myself though it is not probably the time now.

"I played in the first and second Rugby Championships for Argentina and I started every one of those games in 2012 and 2013. I am very proud of all the games I have played for Argentina and I have to realise that they are picking younger players now. I am happy with how my career has gone and it was a long journey," he said.

It might not be the last leg of that journey, but Guiñazú is determined to treat his time in Munster as if it is. He still thinks he has a lot to prove here, but he knows well he needs to be ready to play whatever position he is asked to.

"I am a hooker, I have been playing the last three or four years as a hooker but I started my international career as a prop. That was more than 10 years ago but I used to play loosehead prop when I was younger and when I was in France I played a few games at tighthead as well.

"Three years ago I decided I would play as a hooker. It is a position where you need really specific work so I feel that I am a hooker that is my post. Eventually if the team needs it I can prop as well, that is not a problem to me.

"But I will do whatever I have to for the team. In situations like this when some of the props have gotten injured I am more than happy to help the team and fill in, that is no problem at all.

"This is a huge part of the season for us and we need to do well in these games. Hopefully I will be getting some game time that is what I am looking for and that is what I came here for. I am just desperate to play," he said.

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