(Reuters) - Argentina’s shift from a tight-five dominated game to a more cavalier attacking style has been marked over the last decade and centre Matias Moroni epitomises a new breed of backs happy to run at the opposition.
The 28-year-old, at the peak of his powers with five Rugby Championships and four Super Rugby seasons under his belt with the Jaguares, is determined to carry the ball whenever he gets a chance, looking for a break or slick layoff.
Moroni played on the wing when the Pumas came within a whisker of an historic defeat of the All Blacks in Buenos Aires in July but he is likely to be more a facilitator in Japan as coach Mario Ledesma’s first choice at outside centre.
Inside him will be the battle-hardened halfback partnership of Tomas Cubelli and Nicolas Sanchez along with uncompromising Jaguares captain Jeronimo de la Fuente.
It is outside and behind him, though, that the treasure trove of Argentine rugby will line up, with Joaquin Tuculet, Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano, Bautista Delguy and Santiago Carreras boasting pace and footballing skill in spades.
The Argentina back three are a potent attacking threat, not just out wide but with the angles they run either off the blindside wing or cutting back across the defences.
Such is Argentina’s depth in this part of the game that Ledesma was unable to find room in his squad for Juan Imhoff or Santiago Cordero, one of the standout players in the run to the semi-finals four years ago.
It will be the job of Moroni and his midfield partner to help release that wide talent, not least in their crunch Pool C opener against France in Tokyo on Sept. 21.
“Against France, we’re going to play one of the most important matches of our careers so our minds are on that,” Moroni told reporters before the team left for Japan via a Sydney training camp.
“We know they apply a lot of pressure in defence so we’re trying out options to get round that.”
Argentina famously beat the French in Paris in the opening match of the 2007 World Cup as a team including Ledesma started a journey that would end up with a first run to the semi-finals.
Although former hooker Ledesma will lead the team in Japan, much of the groundwork for Argentina’s backline transformation took place under his predecessor Daniel Hourcade.
Argentina had always built their international reputation on a formidable scrum with backs making the most of limited attacking chances until Hourcade forged a change in mindset that produced the exciting 2015 World Cup side.
Fifteen players from that squad are going to Japan and if any of their opponents turn up still expecting nothing but prime Argentine beef, Moroni and his fellow backs will have a big surprise in store for them.
Editing by Nick Mulvenney