Julián Montoya enjoying lead role after long stint on second fiddle

Hooker Montoya follows mentor Agustin Creevy in leadership role with Pumas

Julián Montoya didn’t tolerate what he considered an uppity young wing that had the temerity to try and prise the ball from his grasp. New Zealand’s Will Jordan looked to take possession after his team were awarded a penalty in the first half of a recent Rugby Championship game against Argentina.

Pumas captain Montoya fended off the young wing with the warning: "Don't be a pussy. Don't show off, you're too young to show off." Jordan sensibly didn't press the issue before referee Jaco Peyper shooed everyone away.

At 17 and a half stone and a little over six foot the Argentina hooker not only cuts an imposing figure but boasts a pretty impressive highlight reel when it comes to big carries and tackles. He is not to be trifled with but that shouldn’t camouflage the fact that he is a very good rugby player, a fact recognised by Leicester Tigers whom he joined last January.

Once there was no longer a place for the Jaguares in Super Rugby, Argentinean players scoured the world for employment. The 28-year-old made an immediate impact for Steve Borthwick’s team.

Originally from Club Newman in Buenos Aires, the same one that produced former Argentina outhalf and current Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi, he made his debut for the national side as a replacement in a 65-9 win over Uruguay in 2014.

It was a role that would become all too familiar as he understudied former Pumas captain Agustin Creevy, the latter currently playing under Declan Kidney at London Irish. Montoya will make his 74th appearance for Argentina at the Aviva stadium on Sunday, 50 of which have come off the bench, albeit that will have started the last 18 matches.

He has played against Ireland on four occasions previously all as a replacement. The first was in June, 2014 in Resistencia, a game the visitors won 29-17. Montoya came on during the World Cup quarter-final win over Ireland in the Millennium Stadium, while his other two appearances were in 2017 and 2018 at the Aviva Stadium, both of which ended in Irish wins.

In the summer of this year he was handed the captaincy of the national side for two Tests against Wales and another in Romania succeeding Pablo Matera, an honour he retained throughout the Rugby Championship and the northern hemisphere tour.

Matera was first relieved of the captaincy in December of last year – he was reinstated by the Argentinean rugby union (UAR) within a week – when racist tweets appeared on his Twitter account dating back to 2011 and 2013.

Matera was the first person to whom Montoya spoke before accepting the honour, the latter stated: “He was the first to support me. He and I both want the best for the team. There is a spectacular energy. When we get together you can see how much we miss each other and you can see the desire to put on the shirt.”

Last week's victory over Italy was a welcome respite for head coach Mario Ledesma and his players after a run of seven defeats. It should be noted that it was a ridiculously tough fixture schedule and that essentially with a brief break, the squad has been on the road since July.

Argentina began the Rugby Championship with a brace of fixtures against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth, and then four Tests in Australia, two each against the Wallabies and All Blacks. They then travelled to Paris, losing 29-20 in a typically feisty contest against France before beating Italy in Treviso.

As many of the squad disperse to return to club rugby in England and France, there is little doubt that the collective will have enough energy for one final assault. Montoya, as always, will be front and centre.

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