It is an interesting choice of an opponent but a sensible one. Argentina could have tried to secure an international test match, but the callibre of teams avaliable would have been unlikely to match that of Stade Français. It is the European pre-season after all and no national teams are actively training at the moment, aside from the four who will dispute the upcoming 'Rugby Championship' - Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Stade Français is not just any French club either. It is the same club that transformed Juan Martín Hernández into a superstar, the same club that Agustín Pichot captained to the 2007 Top 14 Championship and has been in essence the spiritual home of many Pumas over the last decade. Of the team that defeated France to spectacularly open Rugby World Cup 2007 for example, five players adorned the Parisien's colours in domestic rugby at the time; Hernández, Pichot, Lucas Borges, Ignacio Corleto and Rodrigo Roncero.
Stade Francais' history promoting Argentinian rugby makes them the 'perfect fit' for warm-up
Such has been the Argentine presence at the Paris club over the past decade that the club is synonymous with the development of Argentine rugby. Not only has the club actively contributed to the rise and consolidation of Argentina as an elite performing team but it will continue to do so in the future following the arrival of two new players for the 2012-2013 season - centre Lisando Gómez Lopez and secondrower Juan Cruz Guillemain. Neither player will feature in this match though and nor will prop Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro who is injured.
|Stade Francais have built their success on the strength of South American imports|
The XV selected by Stade Francais is still packed with international players past and present though. Selected in the halves are Julien Dupuy and former Pumas stalwart Felipe Contepomi while Jérôme Porical will take the field from fullback. Former Australian internationals Morgan Turinui (centre) and David Lyons (number 8) are both in the team too, as is promising USA international Scott LaValla. South Africa´ Anton Van Zyl meanwhile forms a strong middle row with french pillar, Pascal Papé.
Pumas looking to kick on from RWC 2011 Quarterfinal Exit
Santiago Phelan, the Pumas coach, meanwhile has named a similar team to that from Rugby World Cup 2011. Continuity it seems, is imperitive. His captain is World Cup vice captain Juan Fernández Lobbe, who forms a powerful backrow with Julio Farías Cabello and Tomás Leonardí, two members featured from South African based Vodacom Cup Winners 'Los Pampas'.
In the engine room, Manuel Carizza and Patricio Albacete continue to forge a strong partnership (which performed stoicly last year in New Zealand). Veteran Rodrigo Roncero starts at loosehead prop, facing his former club and will continue his partnership with young starlet Juan Figallo too. There is a change at hooker (a forced one), as eternal Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma retired from the game following Argetnina's Quarter Final defeat to New Zealand last year.
|Agustin Creevy is an athletic hooker and 'one to watch'|
His replacement, Agustín Creevy, was a former backrower which Phelan suggested to change to hooker. The experiment has proven highly sucessful thus far. Creevy captained Los Pampas XV to glory in the 2011 Vodacom Cup and followed it with a blistering campaign for montpellier in the Top 14.
The forwards one must say are pretty much close to full strength but are without Juan Leguizamón, who was ruled out following a minor injury picked up at training on Monday. He would otherwise be starting in the 7 shirt. Tomás De La Vega's exclusion is a surprise. He was the best player to come out of the experimental forwards that faced Italy and France in June.
Life after Felipe Contepomi
Phelan has all his backs avaliable for the first time in his coaching career too. The 10-12 combination of Hernández and Contepomi from Rugby World Cup 2007 only played together in two tests under Phelan, both in 2008. Thereafter either one or both was injured leading to him having to make some bold selections which saw Santiago Fernández and Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga debut for Los Pumas.
Contepomi will not feature in The Rugby Championship as, at 35, he has decided he does not want to stand in the way of younger players. This led to some controversy among SANZAR countries with outspoken Australian Rugby Chairman, John O´Neill suggesting the Pumas wouldn't be at full strength.
|Contepomi is vacating his spot in Argentinian rugby after a truly illustrious career for Los Pumas|
On form, Contepomi would be in the 22 and possibly the starting lineup, but as a qualified doctor, he knows his limits. The demands of playing in T'he Rugby Championship' are extremely high; six tests against the best opposition in rugby is no easy task, let alone for a 35 year old who has played non-stop from August til June.
With no Contepomi, Phelan has predictably selected Hernández at 10 and Fernández at 12. They played together in the June 2009 test against England in Salta and the clash against the French Barbarians in Buenos Aires. Both are the leading choice in their positions and both played there for the majority of the 2011-2012 French club season as their clubs made the play-offs. They should retain the positions for the Cape Town test too but they will need not only to perform well but combine well as a partnership.
Patricio Albacete vs Pascal Papé sees two titans battle it out in the engine room. Nicolás Vergallo vs Julien Dupuy at halfback is a contest of contrasting styles but one of quality. Rodrigo Roncero vs David Attoub is not only a friend vs friend battle but also a matchup between two of the best props in France last season.
But there is one match-up that everyone has been talking about since the UAR announcement of matches against Stade Français: Juan Martín Hernández vs Felipe Contepomi.
1 Rodrigo Roncero (unattached), 2 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier), 3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier), 4 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz), 5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse), 6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas), 7 Tomás Leonardi (Los Pampas), 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon), 9 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse), 10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro), 11 Horacio Agulla (Bath), 12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier), 13 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz), 14 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter), 15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier)
1 Romain Frou, 2 Laurent Sempéré, 3 David Attoub, 4 Anton Van Zyl, 5 Pascal Papé, 6 Scott LaValla, 7 Olivier Missoup, 8 David Lyons, 9 Julien Dupuy, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Julien Arias, 12 Morgan Turinui,13 Geoffrey Doumayrou,14 Waisea Vuidravuwalu,15 Jérôme Porical
The Stade Français side is in no way a weak team but given the Pumas time together and their preperation in the USA, this should be a Pumas win. Argentina to win comfortably by 25 points.
Preview compiled by Paul Tait; creator of 'Rugby World Cup - Argetnina 2023'
Edited By Phil Bailey, creator of Dumptackle Rugby Blog