Template:National rugby team The Argentina national rugby team, nicknamed los Pumas, is currently the top rugby union team in the Americas.

Although rugby union has not matched football (soccer) for popularity in Argentina, the impressive results by Los Pumas since the 1999 Rugby World Cup, have seen its popularity grow exponentially against a troubled economic backdrop. Argentina has managed from its appearance in the international arena to accomplish several upset victories, and has been a tough contender when playing in Buenos Aires.

The domestic game boasts just over 300 amateur clubs - including Hindú, La Plata, SIC and CASI - and around 25,000 senior players, although many star names have benefited from playing professionally in Europe.

Argentina's traditional strengths have lain in their forwards and their scrummaging (known as the bajadita).

Strip

Los Pumas play in a hooped shirt in the country's flag (and sporting) colours of sky blue and white with sky blue sleeves, white shorts, and hooped socks in sky blue and white. The emblem on the shirts features a jaguar, notwithstanding the team's nickname; see the "History" section below for the history behind the Pumas nickname. As of 2006 the strip is manufactured by adidas and VISA is the shirt sponsor.

History

The first rugby union match in Argentina was played in 1873, the game having been brought to South America by the British. In 1899, four clubs in Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, got together to form the River Plate Rugby Football Union. This body, one of the oldest rugby unions in the world, later became known as the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR), which became a member of the International Rugby Board (IRB) only after being invited to the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

In 1910 a side managed by Oxford University — supposedly the England national team but included three Scottish players — toured Argentina: the people of Argentina termed it the "Combined British".

In 1927 the British Isles toured Argentina, with the Lions winning all nine encounters; the tour did however become a financial success for Argentinian rugby

In 1936 the Lions visited Argentina again, winning all ten of their matches and only conceding nine points in the whole tour.

The team's nickname of Pumas is generally believed to be the result of an error made by a newsman who followed the team during their first overseas tour ever, to Southern Africa in 1965. Reporters were trying to devise a catchy nickname for the team similar to existing international team nicknames such as All Blacks, Springboks, and Wallabies. One of them saw the picture of an animal on the UAR crest; however, he thought it was a puma instead of the actual jaguar. The mistake stuck, and was eventually adopted by the Argentines themselves (although the UAR crest still depicts a jaguar).

Back in the late 1960s the four home unions began tours to Argentina, and after Wales struggled in both Tests in Buenos Aires in 1967 it soon became clear that Argentina would a difficult place to win a series. Scotland became their next victims when the Pumas won the first test in 1968. The Scots won the second test two weeks later, but it was close.

From the late seventies to the early nineties, Argentina never lost the two matches of a series held in Buenos Aires, in a period that included victories against France, England, Australia and a 21-21 tie to the All Blacks, which is probably the most important result ever obtained by the Pumas, thanks to a terrific performance by Hugo Porta who scored all of Argentina's points.

By the time the first Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, in 1987, Argentines were confident its national team would at least make it to quarterfinals. However, an unexpected loss to Western Samoa prevented the team from clinching the first round.

On the following years, the retirement of many of Argentina's most experienced players, and the defection of many others to professional leagues (it should be mentioned that rugby union is still an amateur sport in Argentina and UAR's regulations of the time prevented any player who played professionally from playing for the national team) left Argentina with an inexperienced side.

This led to disappointing performances in the 1991 and 1995 World Cups, albeit in the latter Argentina presented a powerful forward pack which was praised by the international media. Argentina's tighthead prop, Patricio Noriega, and hooker, Federico Mendez, went to play to Australia and South Africa respectively after their RWC performance. Noriega even ended up playing for the Wallabies.

In 1999, a more experienced and somewhat underrated Argentina made it for the first time to the World Cup quarterfinals, after a vibrant 28-24 win against Ireland. After this match, tests between Argentina and Ireland have frequently become classics.

Argentina missed out on progressing to the 2003 World Cup quarterfinals due to a one point loss to Ireland in a nailbiting game. It was noted that because of the fixture list, Argentina had to play four games in a fortnight, whereas Ireland played the same number of games in four weeks. It was suggested that Ireland, as a major nation, would not accept a similar fixture list, and that this may have played a role in the outcome of the game.

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Since then they have shown good form, splitting a two-test home series with Wales in June 2004; handing defending Six Nations champion France a 24-14 loss in November 2004 at Marseille, where France had never lost before; and, later in the same tour, losing 21-19 to Ireland on a last-minute drop goal. After returning to Argentina, the Pumas lost 39-7 to the visiting Springboks of South Africa; however, the Pumas were without 10 regular starters who had returned to their club teams in Europe.

Perhaps the Pumas' finest hour in recent years came on 23 May 2005 in Cardiff, when they played the British and Irish Lions in the Lions' send-off match for their tour to New Zealand. The Pumas were forced to choose a side of second- and even third-choice players (prop Mauricio Reggiardo, later voted man of the match, came out of retirement for the game) as 25 players from their selection pool were unavailable due to club commitments. However, a Pumas performance widely hailed as inspired, combined with lackluster play by a mostly second-choice Lions side, put Argentina on the verge of one of the greatest upsets in recent rugby history. It took a Jonny Wilkinson penalty at the death—and arguably the decision by Australian referee Stuart Dickinson to allow eight minutes of added time at the end of the match—for the Lions to salvage a 25-25 draw and avoid a humiliating defeat.

When the Springboks returned to Argentina in November of that year, they faced a much stronger Pumas side, with most of their European-based players present. The Pumas took a 20-16 lead into the halftime break at Vélez Sársfield. While they faded in the second half, they were not embarrassed, losing 34-23. The following week, the Pumas traveled to Murrayfield to take on Scotland and won a closely-fought match 23-19. This marked the fifth consecutive time since 1990 that Los Pumas had defeated Scotland. They claimed another Six Nations scalp a week later, defeating Italy 39-22 in Genoa.

In the 2006 mid-year Tests, Argentina welcomed a Wales side for a two-Test tour. Los Pumas swept the series, marking their first Test series win over Wales. However, in a near-reversal of the situation that Los Pumas faced against the Lions in 2005, the Welsh side only contained two first-choice players. The majority of the Wales side were A team and under-21 players, as over 20 first-choice squad members were unavailable or injured. The first test, on June 11, was a closely-fought affair, won 27-25. It was historically significant as the first Argentina Test ever to be held in Patagonia. The visitors were welcomed very warmly, as the match was held in Puerto Madryn, one of the major towns in an area that was settled by Welsh in the 1860s and where Welsh is still frequently spoken. The second Test at Vélez Sársfield on June 17 saw the Pumas take a 45-13 lead before two late Welsh tries cut the final margin to 45-27. Welsh indiscipline and lack of experience were generally seen as major contributing factors.[1] This did, however, mark Argentina's largest win ever over Wales. Los Pumas next entertained the world's top team, the All Blacks, at Vélez Sársfield the following week. The All Blacks won 25-19, but not until surviving an all-out Pumas assault on their try line in the final minutes.

Famous players

Current squad

Forwards:

File:Pichotvsscotland.jpg

Backs:

See also

Sources