Hola Argentina, and welcome to the Rugby Championship!
This year kicks off the new and improved Tri Nations rugby competition: The Rugby Championship. Argentina has been thrown into the mix to give the competition new meaning.
Not only does this new inclusion bring more competition within the tournament, but the benefits for the sport itself will be immense.
Since watching international fixtures, I have come to notice that the different hemispheres have created two, completely different styles of play.
Traditionally, the Northern Hemisphere teams such as England, Ireland and Scotland have been known for their extremely well organised set piece, and their strong kicking games, just like the great teams of the 80s and 90s.
However Southern Hemisphere teams such as New Zealand and Australia have attempted to move away from the ‘old school’ styles, and play a more expansive, fast-paced running game.
Clearly, this alteration in game play can be attributed to the rugby conference championships of the Heineken Cup and Six Nations in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Tri Nations and Super Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere.
Contributing to this, international players who are neither from Europe or Australasia most likely play in Europe, simply because of the appeal for financial gains.
Specifically, great Argentinian players such as Felipe Contepomi, Mario Ledesma, Lucas Borges and many more, all play in the European tournaments.
Due to these players being exposed to the game-play within the Northern Hemisphere, their mentality remains the same – to focus towards establishing a solid set piece and to have a strong kicking game.
However, now that Argentina has been included within the Tri Nations, it means that these players will regularly be revealed to the dazzling skills of James O’Connor, Dan Carter, Sonny Bill-Williams and Kurtley Beale.
But I suppose there are many, or possibly more fantastic players that play in Europe, but it is not simply the players, it is that attacking flair, that mentality to run the ball towards the opposition and not just simply to play a game of ‘force and backs’ adopted by southern hemisphere rugby.
This is not to say that at times, southern hemisphere teams do kick the ball away aimlessly, but more often than not, the intent to run is there.
The exciting thing with the Rugby Championship is that, now that Argentina will constantly play in this type of environment, the players, and the game of rugby union itself will benefit.
However, I am not saying that the teams and players will just merely follow this style of game-play because it is entertaining, but because it is effective.
New Zealand has been the world rugby powerhouse since the games beginning, but their recent success in the past decade has been attributed to their ability to keep the ball in hand, and score tries.
Just look at Wales, this northern hemisphere nation, now coached by a New Zealander, has begun to play a more expansive style of game, and they have reaped the benefits.
If Argentina is able to play, like a real Southern Hemisphere team should, who knows how strong they could become.
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