‘Black day’ as Pumas trim squad

ARGENTINA coach Marcelo Loffreda admits the task of trimming his 41-man preliminary World Cup squad down to the final 30 was “very painful”.

Loffreda has cut 11 players from the group of players who have been working together since the start of July.

“It was a black day, a very painful decision,” he said. “It was worse than when Australia eliminated us from the last World Cup. In this sport you always get very close to the players. Rejecting 11 of them was very painful and some of the selected men showed how sad they are. The look in theirs faces said it all.”

The Argentinian Rugby Union (UAR) initially planned to name the 30-man squad later this week, but Loffreda chose to do it earlier.

“I decided to do it now as I respect the players and it was also a matter of ethic,” he said.

Federico Aramburu and Francisco Leonelli have failed to recover from injury and will not travel to France ahead of the Group D opener against hosts France on September 7 in Paris.

Alumni’s Alberto Vernet Basualdo edged out Pablo Gambarini to claim the spot as back-up hooker, while CASI’s Esteban Lozada claimed the fourth and final second row berth ahead of Manuel Carriza.

Argentina will continue their preparations in Buenos Aires before flying to Wales on August 13 for a Test match against Gareth Jenkins’ side.

“We need this game,” said UAR secretary Raul Sanz. “We aren’t going to show all our potential, but we want to play against a strong team. We have to arrange the last details to confirm the game.”

Puma captain Agustin Pichot believes the Argentinians are no longer a surprise package ahead of the World Cup.

The Stade Francais scrum-half said: “Perhaps there will be surprises in the World Cup, but I’m sure it will not be Argentina. The Pumas will no longer go to the World Cup to be the surprise of the championship. This year will not be as 1999, when we were the surprise without any doubts. Thanks to the results the team have collected, that’s over.”

Argentina play hosts France in the tournament‘s opening match on September 7 before games against Namibia, Georgia and Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland.

The skipper revealed they have one difficult, but not impossible goal: “We want to win the four matches of the group,” he said.

“We know they will all be hard to pass. There are two games (France and Ireland) that are like semi-finals or finals because they are two of the five most important teams in the world.”

The Pumas have spent a fortnight in Pensacola, Florida, and Pichot is convinced the hard work will stand them in good stead.

“It was marvellous because we’ve been totally focused on our preparation and it makes us be very well and get to the World Cup in the best form,” the 32-year-old added.

The Pumas will play their last warm-up friendly at home on Saturday against Chile in San Isidro.

Argentina squad: P Albacete, O Hasan (both Stade Toulousian), M Ayerza (Leicester Tigers), A Vernet Basualdo (Alumni), H Agulla, N Fernandez Miranda (both Hindu), L Borges, I Corleto, JM Hernandez, A Pichot, R Roncero (all Stade Francais), M Schusterman (Leeds Tykes), F Serra (SIC), F Todeschini (Montpellier), M Ledesma, G Longo, M Scelzo (all ASM Clermont Auvergne), JM Nunez Piossek (Aviron Bayonnais), JM Leguizamon, G Tiesi (both London Irish), F Contepomi (Leinster), M Contepomi (Newman), M Durand (unattached), I Fernandez Lobbe, JM Fernandez Lobbe (both Sale Sharks), M Gaitan (Biarritz), R Alvarez (Perpignan), S Gonzalez Bonorino (Capitolina), E Lozada (CASI), L Ostiglia (Sporting Union Agen).

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