Argentina captain Agustin Pichot predicted the “end for rugby” if tournament organisers followed through with plans to reduce the number of teams competing in the 2011 World Cup.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) will meet after the current tournament to discuss whether to cut the amount of participating teams from 20 to 16.
That could mean the likes of Portugal and Georgia, who will have taken heart from Argentina’s amazing campaign that ended with a 37-13 defeat to South Africa at the semi-final stage in Paris last night, miss out.
Pichot, whose country have come from the depths to take their place on the top table of world rugby in recent years, believes that would sound the death knell for the sport.
“If the World Cup is cut from 20 to 16, I think that will be the end for rugby,” said the veteran scrum-half.
“We need to give all the countries a chance to play on this stage, even if they are not ready to play.
“Two of the greatest teams in world rugby (New Zealand and Australia) have gone home at the quarter-final stage. They have a lot of power.
“We have to look where we want to go. Open rugby, or six-to-10 team rugby.”
Pichot could have played his last match for the Pumas, in last night’s defeat to the Springboks.
Pichot’s men made too many errors against the South Africans, who ran in four tries – two from interceptions.
Bryan Habana grabbed a brace, while Fourie du Preez and Danie Rossouw went over for the others and Percy Montgomery kicked 17 points.
Argentina scored through Manuel Contepomi’s try, and a conversion and two penalties by his brother Felipe, but were well beaten in the end.
Coach Marcelo Loffreda admitted his players were their own worst enemies.
“I am very proud of my team and players but we were the victims of our own mistakes,” said the future Leicester Tigers coach.
“We were beaten by a great team – they were markedly better than us.
“South Africa are very dangerous, and when they have space or when you make mistakes, knock-ons or drop the ball, they take advantage and score.
“We paid dearly for the mistakes we made.”
Pichot was in tears as he praised the efforts of his team, who progressed through the group stages unbeaten and then beat Scotland in the last eight.
“We really believed we could achieve something, but something was missing,” added the Racing Metro number nine.
“I won’t have another chance to be a world champion, and that really hurts more than anything else.
“We have been waiting for so long, so it’s a really sad day. We did everything, but it was beyond our reach.”
Argentina will meet France in Paris on Friday in the play-off for third and fourth place.