LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina believe that despite only two wins in their last 13 test matches they are on the right track in their quest for better results against the world’s leading teams as they build a challenge for the 2019 World Cup.
The Pumas have struggled for consistency since reaching the 2015 World Cup semi-finals in England.
“If you want to compete with the best you have to be in constant growth and obviously the results are what remain at the end,” Pumas centre Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias told Reuters ahead of Saturday’s test against England at Twickenham.
“But we are capable of analysing them and sticking to our (2019 World Cup) plan and the growth we believe will at some point bear fruit,” said Gonzalez Iglesias, who starts alongside good friend Matias Moroni in a new centre pairing.
He said a major cause of Argentina’s problems was their replacements’ bench.
That does not mean Gonzalez Iglesias lacks faith in the Pumas reserves, and he is often one of them, but rather that they need more regular game time at the highest club level.
Argentina are in their professional infancy with one franchise in Super Rugby, the Jaguares, from which the Pumas draw their team.
“Today, the players who get to be replacements for the Pumas have come from being reserves for the Jaguares, while England’s replacements are top players in their club teams, likewise New Zealand’s because they have several franchises,” Gonzalez Iglesias said.
“And these days replacements are very important, they end up settling matches,” he said.
The pattern of a test for Argentina has tended to be very good for an hour before succumbing to their opponents’ greater strength in depth in the final quarter.
“The coaches would be really happy if they had 30, 40, 50 players to pick from who were all playing top level rugby every weekend,” said Gonzalez Iglesias, who kicked the penalty that handed the Pumas their last win against a top rugby nation when they beat South Africa 26-24 in a Rugby Championship test in Salta in August, 2016.
In the last 12 months Argentina have suffered three successive losses to England and taken no points in their six Rugby Championship games for the first time.
Gonzalez Iglesias said the Pumas are well aware they need to overcome lapses in concentration that have cost them wins they appeared to have in the bag like the 38-34 last-gasp loss to England in the first test in San Juan in June.
“There’s something that isn’t quite right, we’ve grown a lot these last years, we’ve played well, had great first halves, rolling over superior teams but there comes a moment when they take advantage of our errors, lapses in concentration,” he said.
“I think it’s down to a mental issue which we must deal with.”
Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond