LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade’s position will be under review next month after a poor year in results although there were signs in the November tests they could on the right track, according to former Pumas centre Marcelo Bosch.
Hourcade, whose team peaked when they reached the 2015 World Cup semi-finals, is at the end of his two-year contract but he and his players are keen to stay together and build for the 2019 tournament in Japan.
The Pumas are not short of accolades with fullback Joaquin Tuculet winning the try of the year award at Sunday’s World Rugby gala in Monaco and winger Emiliano Boffelli being a nominee for breakthrough player of 2017.
However, Argentina lost to the top five teams in 10 tests this year, taking no points at all for the first time in the Rugby Championship, and only beat Georgia and Italy.
“This shows a reality not only of the Pumas team but of the whole system, including Jaguares,” Bosch, who last played for Argentina at the World Cup in England, told Reuters.
The Jaguares Super Rugby Franchise doubles as the Pumas squad because the Argentine union (UAR) ruled out picking European-based players. Some returned home but the squad is young, drawing its talent from the amateur club game.
“It’s a lot to ask of a squad with not too many players, 30 to 35 professionals. It’s a struggle, they need more players, more depth,” Bosch said.
“The UAR ruled on this, thinking it would be better for the future, they didn’t want the young players to emigrate to Europe so they would have a strong Super Rugby team which was understandable, but after two years the balance is not very positive.”
Bosch did see a positive close to the tour, though, in Saturday’s 28-19 defeat by Ireland in Dublin and Hourcade had noted that Argentina finished all three November tests, including a 21-8 loss to England and 31-15 win over Italy, strongly in contrast to last year.
“What I liked most about the tour were the last 30 minutes against Ireland,” said the 33-year-old Bosch, a European Cup and English Premiership winner with Saracens.
“They were losing 20-0 against a very strong team and despite the poor results this year and psychological barrier of losing their grip in the second half of matches, they remained strong and, on the contrary, played good rugby and scored good tries though it wasn’t enough against a team who defended their lead well.”
Bosch saw an improvement in the team’s discipline and defence in this month’s matches.
“In the Rugby Championship I think they conceded an average of five tries per match which makes it very difficult to win matches like that,” Bosch said.
Bosch said the leading European teams had reacted strongly to the southern hemisphere’s monopoly of the four semi-final berths at the World Cup in England.
“They have evolved enormously since the World Cup, Ireland is not the same team that played at the World Cup, the game they played against the Pumas was very good and they had beaten South Africa two weeks earlier,” he said.
(Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond)