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(Reuters) - Argentina sealed a first win in six when they beat Georgia on Saturday, but their recent defeats to England showed they must be more consistent and better in defence if they are to avoid the wooden spoon again in this year's Rugby Championship.
Wing Ramiro Moyano’s second hat-trick of the season helped Argentina seal a 45-29 win over Georgia in Jujuy to end a poor run of results and bring back some much-needed confidence.
Yet it was their back-to-back defeats to England over the previous fortnight that exposed some familiar recent issues.
England coach Eddie Jones said last year he regarded Argentina as the second best team in the Rugby Championship behind New Zealand, referring particularly to their attacking skills.
Yet Jones's England profited from the risks Argentina take in attack, snatching decisive points from their mistakes, and have now won three on the bounce against the Pumas after they also won in London in November.
With this year's Rugby Championship set to get underway in August, Argentina were at least able to stem a run of five successive defeats against Georgia.
“The team played well, we won and that’s very positive to keep growing as a team,” Moyano, who also scored a hat-trick for the Jaguares against Cheetahs in a Super Rugby match in March, told reporters.
Centre Matias Orlando was also impressed, describing their game plan as perfect.
“The basis of our game is there but we weren’t getting the results," he added. "This gives us a big lift for what’s to come."
On the immediate horizon is this year's Rugby Championship, when they will again pit themselves against southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Argentina finished bottom in last year's championship, just as they have done in all but one of their five appearances.
They begin away to South Africa on Aug. 19, but have seemingly lost an edge they have previously enjoyed over even their strongest rivals in forward play, the mainstay of their game prior to their watermark third place at the 2007 World Cup in France.
Their attacking game took them to 2015 World Cup semi-finals in England but the introduction of the professional Jaguares franchise in Super Rugby, a squad of 44 who simultaneously make up the Pumas, seems to have put an extra burden on the players.
The policy of picking only those players based at home also means the likes of Racing wing Juan Imhoff and Toulon back-row Facundo Isa will only be chosen for a World Cup.
“This is a delicate subject,” former captain Agustin Pichot told Reuters in a recent interview. “If the south continues bending towards the money in the north then we have a problem.
“Those regulations are to protect the professional game here (in Argentina),” said Pichot, the driving force in taking Argentina into the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.
“If the (Argentine Rugby Union) council decides to open that door it could be done. But I think you will jeopardise the future of the franchise.”
The franchise is in its second season in Super Rugby and after a bright start with four wins in five matches they fell away and lost five of their next six, ending their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Editing by Toby Davis