Sunday 22 April 2018

Puma risk works out for Carizza

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WHEN romance and reality meet, there is usually only one winner – just ask Fiji.

Speaking on television on Monday night, Bernard Jackman recounted that one of his Grenoble players, Aloisio Butonidualevu, was called up to the islanders' squad for the autumn internationals, but wouldn't commit because he was in the final year of his contract with the French club. Finance came first, despite the lure of international action.

Argentina's Manuel Carizza faced a similar dilemma when the Pumas began their Rugby Championship odyssey last summer.

Having long railed against a system that denied them access to tournament rugby outside of the World Cup, the day had finally arrived when the South Americans could take their place at the top table of the world game.

It appealed to almost every fan out there, but Biarritz Olympique didn't want to know and cut their long-serving lock adrift. After seven years with the southern French club, they no longer wanted to know. About to turn 27, he was entering his prime, but as an asset, he had lost his value because he wanted to play for his country.

He wasn't the only one: Horacio Agulla and Leonardo Senatore were among other players who had to go looking for new clubs as a result of their involvement with Argentina.

It was a risk Carizza was willing to take and – having picked up a short-term deal with Racing Metro – one that worked out in the end.

"It was a tough decision to make. I am used to stability after seven years in Biarritz. My house, my car, my life is there. It was a risk to say no to them and to play, but fortunately it went okay," he said. "But, listen, I had a great time with my national team. I had an opportunity to play in the best international tournament, so I am very happy with my decision. It went okay and I've got a contract with a big French club now, so I am happy with that."

Rosario native Carizza, who has won 29 caps for the Pumas since making his debut in 2004, believes that the Argentinian players may have to commit to southern hemisphere clubs in future, although he and his team-mates know that the more lucrative contracts are on offer north of the equator.


One wonders how long the lure of the French euros and English pounds will be resisted.

"It is a problem, it is going to be tough for players who are in the last year of their contract to commit to Argentina. Many clubs will say no. Maybe our future is in Super Rugby. Maybe it is time to think that south is the best opportunity for us," he admitted.

The benefits may not be in their wallets, but this Pumas team are building a wealth of experience on the back of their participation in the Rugby Championship.

They may not have won a game, but they drew with South Africa, went close against Australia and tested the world-champion New Zealanders, who look streets ahead of everyone out there.

Since coming to Europe, they have beaten Wales and were disappointed not to get a result in France last Saturday. The experience is rubbing off, according to Carizza , ahead of their clash with Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

"It is new for us to be five months in a year together. We are enjoying it and learning a lot. We learned a lot from the Rugby Championship," he said.

"It always felt like a club team because we are very close and have a great group. But now we have a lot of time together. We are trying to work on details. When we played the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa, you could see that they beat you in the details and now we are working on those."

Irish Independent

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