UK-based Pumas pair to miss Rugby Championship due to documentation issue

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Argentina’s preparations for the Rugby Championship hit another speed bump on Thursday after two of their players based in Britain were withdrawn from the squad due to “documentation problems”.

The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) said on the team’s Twitter page that flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, who joined Leicester Tigers last month, and Glasgow Warriors prop Enrique Pieretto would not be joining up with the squad in Australia.

It did not clarify what the problems were with Diaz Bonilla and Pieretto’s “United Kingdom documentation”.

The duo had been replaced by Lyon-based prop Francisco Gomez Kodela and Valence centre Lucas Mensa, who will travel to Australia next week along with 11 other Europe-based players.

The majority of the Pumas squad have been in a bio-secure facility in Sydney for almost 10 days preparing for the southern hemisphere tournament, which starts on Oct. 31 and will be mostly played in New South Wales.

Prior to their arrival in Australia the team had been hit by a wave of novel coronavirus infections, with more than a dozen players and staff, including coach Mario Ledesma, testing positive.

The Pumas are scheduled to start their campaign against world champions South Africa in Brisbane on Nov. 7.

The Championship is being played entirely in Australia this year to limit the risk of COVID-19, though the New South Wales state government delayed easing restrictions on Wednesday after an infection cluster emerged in suburban Sydney..

The British government tightened COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday in an effort to fight the rapidly rising number of new cases.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford