We are just over one month away from the beginning of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and though this year’s competition will be sure to offer up no shortage of top quality teams contending to become the champions of the world, it may be one of the more traditionally less titanic names, in Argentina, who will be the team to watch at this tournament.
Though Los Pumas’ 2018 was definitely a year to forget, picking up just two wins from 12 tests, a run of form which dropped them down to 10th in the world rankings, Argentina have got a strong enough side to beat anyone on their day should they turn up, and with the national team heavily comprising of members of Super Rugby team Jaguares, they should turn up to the World Cup with more comfort and familiarity with each other, as a group, than any other team in the competition.
On top of the familiarity the team should have from playing together so frequently, they should also be going into the competition with an air of confidence about them, following Jaguares’ most successful season thus far, as they finished runners up in Super Rugby last season, eventually losing to the Crusaders who claimed their third successive championship. Despite eventually succumbing to the might of Super Rugby’s most successful team, the Jaguares’ team members can look back on the club season with their heads held high having claimed the scalps of some of the best teams the Southern hemisphere has to offer on their road to the final.
Along with the core of Jaguares players throughout the Argentina squad, the experienced head coach of the side, Mario Ledesma, has added a few foreign based players to his squad for their Rugby Championship campaign, which Ledesma will see as an invaluable opportunity to bed those players in as a part of the group and settle them in with the heavy Jaguares contingent before the World Cup. Though they are yet to pick up a victory in the Rugby Championship, narrowly losing to both New Zealand and Australia, they had some impressive performances and a lot of positives to take away from both games.
The pool containing Argentina at the World Cup, pool C, has been referred to as the ‘pool of death’. Joining Los Pumas in the pool will be England and France, as well as the USA and Tonga who make up the 5 team group. Despite the presence of two very strong sides in England and France, both of whom will be vehemently aiming to get out of the pool, it would be foolish for anybody, including their competitors, to overlook Argentina as very strong contenders to progress from this pool, and should they do that, it would not surprise me to see Argentina go on to achieve their best ever World Cup performance this year.