Camacho back in the swing and feeling in the mood
Juan Martin Hernandez remains the biggest concern for the Argentinian management. The outhalf-cum-fullback missed last Saturday’s defeat to France with a thigh strain but indications from their camp yesterday suggest his chances are reasonably good.
If fit, he is likely to return at fullback, where he played against Wales, with Santiago Phelan again opting for Nicolas Sanchez, who has scored 30 points in two tour games to date. Last Saturday’s fullback, Lucas Amorisino, and tighthead Juan Figallo have made way for Montpellier teammates, centre Santiago Fernandez and prop Maximiliano Bustos.
Figallo has been cited in any case for allegedly striking with the head on Pascal Papé on Saturday. If Hernandez is not fit, Joaquim Tuculet of Grenoble is likely to start at fullback, with Bustos to come into the frontrow, while Exeter winger Gonzalo Camacho will return on the wing for the injured Horacio Agulla.
Camacho replaced Agulla in Lille and was still sporting the scars of battle yesterday with gashes to his forehand and the top of his nose, and agrees Argentinian rugby is also reaping the benefits from entry into the Rugby Championship.
“It brings the team together more and you get more time together and you get experience against the best players in the world. It was a shame we didn’t get a win but we surprised a lot of people, not only Argentinian, but also the world and we got a lot of respect from that. The win will come in the near future if we keep on playing like we were playing. You saw the game against Wales in Cardiff, we were spot on that day and we have to keep it like that.”
Ask him how Argentina overcome the innumerable obstacles that stand in their way, and he says: “I think why the Argentinians dedicate themselves to the team is the spirit that they have, their willingness to give everything on the pitch for the companions that are on the pitch with him, and rugby is about that.” Sounds simple.
Camacho himself began playing in fourth grade at school, when he was seven or eight. “I went to an English school back in Argentina, I was lucky. So I started playing there and at the age of 14 I went to my local club, the Buenos Aires Rugby Cricket Club. It was one of the founders of rugby in Argentina, and was [opened] in 1860. So it has a bit of history.”
He cut his teeth with four years on Argentina’s Sevens team from age 20 until the 2009 World Cup in Dubai, before making his Test debut that June. He joined Harlequins the following season before joining the Exeter Chiefs.
A strong, nuggety winger, with a huge heart who belies his size with his defending; as he showed with his try against Wales he is also a very good finisher. He was inspired by the deeds of the 1999 heroes when they beat Ireland in that World Cup quarter-final play-off in Lens. “In 1999 I was 15 and I watched the game in a friend’s house with all the mates from my club. That started building up the confidence of Argentinian rugby.”
Beaten 19-3 and 29-9 in their last two visits to Dublin, with ne’er a hint of a try save for some forward rumbles, Camacho says: “In 2010, maybe we were tired at this stage. Now we have more confidence and a team that is growing. At that time we had a lot of experienced people like (Mario) Ledesma, (Rodrigo) Roncero and (Felipe) Contepomi but now we have a new team with new people coming up.”
But not only have a crop of new players come through, there are still some vibrant links to the third place finish at the 2007 World Cup, notably in Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, their inspirational captain.
“He is a great captain,” admits Camacho with an enthusiastic smile bordering on awe. “He always leads by example in his performance and his work-rate. Everything he does he puts the team in front of everything and that’s a good leader. We appreciate him.”
Camacho was almost as positive about the increased influence of Graham Henry during the Rugby Championship. “Graham Henry gives us a lot of confidence, attacking-wise, so it was quite good to have someone like him, to say: ‘c’mon guys, you can just go and throw everything at them’.”
Camacho is expecting a hugely physical match this Saturday, and while he agrees some of the edge in the rivalry has been diluted over the years, adds: “it is good there is an atmosphere of competition.”