Argentina’s national team, the Pumas, had their place in the elite of world rugby confirmed with the launch of The Rugby Championship last week, an annual competition which will see them play world champions New Zealand as well as Australia and South Africa on a home and away basis from 2012.
He added: “The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion in The Rugby Championship. Playing in the Championship will have significant benefits for Argentine rugby as a whole and will bring new energy to the jewel in the crown of SANZAR. The Pumas, as they showed at the Rugby World Cup, play an exciting and different brand of rugby to the three other teams, which will definitely add a new dimension.”
President of the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR), Luis Castillo, talked of his country’s pride at inclusion in the tournament, saying: “The Argentine Rugby Union and Argentinian rugby community is proud to be part of this great tournament. We will work to maintain high standards in our rugby, with our ultimate goal being to keep generating resources for the development of rugby at the clubs.”
In preparation, a development plan had been put in place after the last World Cup to ensure that Argentina continued to produce top international players and prove that the 2007 success was not a fluke. The benefits of that plan are already evident, with the Pampas XV club side winning the Vodacom Cup in South Africa earlier this year.
Having established themselves in the top eight of world rugby over the past decade, admission to a competition of the calibre of The Rugby Championship gives the Pumas opportunity to push on and prove themselves to be a consistent top four side.
As UAR High Performance Chairman Manuel Galindo says: “For years Argentinian rugby has been seeking to participate regularly in a tournament like this. Playing in The Rugby Championship makes us really proud and will compel us to work harder at what we are doing. We must celebrate being part of the tournament.”
It is not known at this stage where in Argentina the matches will be played. In previous years test matches have been played in provincial cities like Salta, Mendoza and Santa Fe, as well as Buenos Aires, but as the recent football Copa América showed, Argentina is not lacking in top class sports stadia. The impressive new ‘estadio único’, inaugurated in the city of La Plata in time for that tournament, is already being touted as a potential venue. A final decision will be made later in the year after a fact-finding visit by a SANZAR delegation in November.
Having put up a brave fight against New Zealand in the recent World Cup quarter-final one thing is sure, Argentine rugby fans are in for a treat from next winter as Richie McCaw and Co come over to their stadiums on a regular basis.
18 August 2012: South Africa v Argentina – venue TBC
25 August 2012: Argentina v South Africa – venue TBC
8 September 2012: New Zealand v Argentina – Wellington
15 September 2012: Australia v Argentina – Gold Coast
29 September 2012: Argentina v New Zealand – venue TBC
6 October 2012: Argentina v Australia – venue TBC