The opponents: Argentina seeking more than success

By Dylan Cleaver

Argentina could face the All Blacks in the quarterfinals and, as Dylan Cleaver writes, they have plenty to play for.

Argentina

The bastard child of world rugby could find itself outside looking in once again when it comes to the knockout phase of the World Cup.

Los Pumas feel justifiably betrayed by IRB indifference and might also question why, for the second World Cup in succession, they have been forced to play the opener against the hosts in what is sure to be a super charged atmosphere at St Denis.

The expected loss there - though Argentina have won at such fortresses as Twickenham recently - means the South Americans will face what will effectively be an elimination match against the Irish back in Paris on September 30. This potentially will be the best match in pool play.

Herald on Sunday columnist Sean Fitzpatrick likes Argentina's chances here and you can see why. As usual they will bring some big, big men in their forward pack and a pair of nifty halves in Agustin Pichot and Federico Todeschini. Of course there are the fixtures - the Lobbes, Juan Fernadez and Ignacio Fernandez, the Contepomi brothers and Mario Ledesma among them - and wily coach Marcelo Loffreda.

Argentina lost to Wales 20-27 last month but Loffreda wasted no time trying to extract something positive from the match, putting pressure on the IRB to investigate whether Argentina get a rough deal from the referees.

"I am worried about what will happen in the World Cup. If there is one rule for one team and another for the other team in the same game, we will have problems, we will have a lot of trouble," Loffreda said.

"We are going to be level with France and with Ireland but if there is a different interpretation of the rules, it will change that.

"I don't want us to be treated so unfairly because we are from South America or because we are from Argentina. I want the same rules for everybody.

"Somebody has to look very carefully at this. I would like to speak with Paddy O'Brien if they allow me because this cannot happen in the World Cup."

It is not just the draw or the referees that have contributed to Argentina's bad luck.

Centre Martin Gaitán was forced out of the World Cup after struggling with heart problems after the 27-20 defeat by Wales.

The 29-year-old complained of chest pains in the changing rooms after the game and was rushed to hospital. Experienced Hernán Senillosa will replace Gaitán.

Given the setbacks, nobody would begrudge Argentina and their famed bajada - their eight-man pushing technique in the scrums - a place in the quarterfinals.

Surely if they get this far at the expense of one of the European superpowers then the IRB will act with more urgency in fitting them into a professional schedule. After all, exactly how difficult is it for the 'governing' body to force either the Super 14 or Heineken Cup to accept an Argentinian franchise?

Less difficult, you'd say, than taking on the hosts in a World Cup opener.

- HoS

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