Argentina feeling the heat

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe expects some of the lesser lights of world rugby to follow Argentina’s lead and establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with over the next few years.

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe expects some of the lesser lights of world rugby to follow Argentina’s lead and establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with over the next few years.

It has taken hard graft and no little skill for the likes of the Pumas and Italy to advance to rugby’s top table.

Down the years in the World Cup, they have been the ones on the receiving end of thrashings, but it has now got to the stage where Argentina taking on Georgia is dubbed David versus Goliath.

The Pumas triumphed over the Georgians 33-3 in Lyon last night but it was by no means a walk in the park for Marcelo Loffreda’s men.

Georgia – like fellow underdogs Canada, the United States, Namibia and Portugal already in the 2007 tournament – bared their teeth and only succumbed after the break when Lucas Borges (two), Patricio Albacete and Federico Martin Aramburu went over for tries.

Fernandez Lobbe insists the smaller nations such as Georgia are definitely making progress and would not be surprised to see at least one of them make the step up.

The Sale flanker said: “The intensity was just as high against Georgia than it was in our first match against France.

“That didn’t surprise me. It is a World Cup and all the teams are really prepared for this.

“They are playing their first game, and they are playing with their hearts.

“We used to be like that. You just have to keep on working, get more organised, and play with passion every time.

“I hope all these teams can be like us and just get better and better. It would be good if people saw that rugby is not just about five teams, it’s about a lot more.

“Maybe people will pay more attention to them now.”

Georgia’s defending was tremendous, especially in the first half when Argentina were restricted to just two penalties from the boot of Felipe Contepomi as they took a 6-3 lead into the break.

The second half was a different story as the eastern Europeans began to tire and lose their shape.

But some of the hits took their toll on the Argentinians, many of whom were still feeling the effects of their heroics in the 17-12 victory over host nation France four days earlier.

“It was just pure passion from them. It was so physical,” added Fernandez Lobbe, who revealed he had received congratulatory messages from his Sale colleagues – as well as former Sharks star and current England winger Jason Robinson – following the Pumas’ start to the tournament.

“You recognise your body is starting to tire. After the match, you feel fine because when you win, you are on a high and you are happy.

“But in the morning it is worse. It’s crazy to play after just two days of practice, just crazy. Things have to change but we are used to this kind of thing now.

“We are just sticking together and putting our heart into each game.”

Argentina, the first team in the competition to have two wins under their belt, have a 10-day break until their next game, against Namibia.

What is going to be a crucial clash with Ireland, in the last game of the pool, follows eight days later.

Juan Manuel Leguizamon said he is only looking as far ahead as Namibia, who gave the Irish a run for their money on Sunday but still lost 32-17.

“We will maybe have the next two days to rest and then we will start preparing for Namibia,” said Fernandez Lobbe’s fellow back-row forward.

“That is all we are thinking about. I think they will be a similar standard to Georgia, if not maybe better. I saw them against Ireland and I was impressed.”

Loffreda agreed, adding: “In a tournament like this, there are no easy games and the match against Georgia is proof, as is Ireland against Namibia.

“These smaller teams play better in the World Cup than they normally do.

“Each time we play Namibia or Georgia, it is a question of respect. You can never underestimate your opponent.”

Next up for Georgia is Ireland on Saturday and captain Ilia Zedginidze reckons that will require an even bigger step-up in intensity.

“I think the next game will be tougher for us than this Argentina game,” said the lock.

“They will try to analyse our game and that will make it harder for us.

“We will try to improve on all the mistakes we made, but I think it will tougher for Georgia.

“The strength of the big teams is that they stay focused for 80 minutes. With our lack of experience, we can’t manage for two halves.

“That is the biggest problem for nations like ours – holding it together for two halves against the bigger teams.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox