The Offload: Matera inspires Argentina’s Soldier Field moment

Los Pumas captain at the heart and soul of his side’s first win over the All Blacks

Argentina and their coach Mario Ledesma celebrate their victory over New Zealand. Photograph: David Gray/Getty/AFP

Argentina and their coach Mario Ledesma celebrate their victory over New Zealand. Photograph: David Gray/Getty/AFP

 

Los Pumas’ Solider Field moment

Argentina finally beating New Zealand, despite multiple Covid barriers prompting everyone to predict an embarrassing defeat, had shades of Soldier Field, Chicago in 2016. Same glaring sun at a neutral venue. Same insane physicality mixed with wonderful guile. Same historic result.

Despite several candidates for Offloader of the Week, especially Caelan Doris, Emily Scarratt, Nicolás Sánchez, who scored all of Los Pumas 25 points, and even Michael Cheika for helping engineer victory in Sydney, the prestigious accolade must go to Pablo Matera.

“I can see a guy hitting the face of one of my men,” Matera responded to referee Angus Gardner’s early dressing down. “It is not respect. I play for my country. That is not respect.”

Let’s not ruin the quote of 2020 with facts, but Argentine flanker Marcos Kremer threw the first slap on Shannon Frizell before Matera waded into the melee. What makes the exchange between captain and referee so interesting is the southern hemisphere stadiums have taken to broadcasting these chats on their PA system.

Matera was the best player on the pitch, literally stunning opposing captain Sam Cane in a wincing collision, while two freakish turnovers, on 27 minutes and the match winning clean rip on 76 minutes, prompted coach Mario Ledesma to burst into tears.

“If I tell you what it means I won’t be able to talk,” said Ledesma. “The guys worked in conditions that were….We’ve been through hell.”

Remembering New Zealand’s revenge mission to Dublin four years ago, beware the wounded Kiwi. Still, Argentina’s win automatically demystifies the black jersey. Unlike what happened to Ireland, don’t expect Matera’s men to be bullied in the return fixture on November 28th.

Number of the week

402 - days since Argentina played rugby before their historic 25-15 victory over New Zealand.

Pablo Matera offloads during Argentina’s win over the All Blacks. Photograph: David Gray/Getty/AFP
Pablo Matera offloads during Argentina’s win over the All Blacks. Photograph: David Gray/Getty/AFP

The curious case of Henderson and Stockdale

Last seen checking out of the Shelbourne Hotel a few hours before kick off last Friday, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are expected to be available to face England at Twickenham.

When information about the players unavailability began to leak, the IRFU communications department were unable to get in touch with each other to confirm the withdrawals. A few minutes later they tweeted out the news. Next, an email landed, revealing Stockdale’s “calf strain” and Henderson’s still unexplained “medical condition.”

The Wales game refocused attention to the encouraging performances of Hugo Keenan and Quinn Roux in place of the missing Ulster men. Wild rumours filled the vacuum on social media before Ireland coach Andy Farrell was asked to explain the chain of events post-match.

“No, they won’t be out long term,” said Farrell. “Jacob, slight sore calf during the week and we thought it was going settle down but it didn’t. He had a scan yesterday and there is a little bit of something but we think he could be available next week. Iain Henderson had a medical issue and again speaking to the doctor we expect him to be ok next week.”

Another storm in a teacup perhaps.

Oceans Apart - rugby colonialism laid bare

None of the information in Dan Leo’s superb ‘Oceans Apart’ documentary, that shows how colonial values remain deeply rooted in rugby governance, should come as a surprise.

The former Samoa lock turned Pacific player representative spent three years interviewing all the stakeholders in the game, except for France and Bernard Laporte who declined to talk about the Francis Kean-Fiji scandal that could not halt Bill Beaumont’s re-election as World Rugby chairman.

Leo highlights that Fijian boys as young as 11-years-old are being recruited by professional clubs and foreign unions.

The doc’s crescendo is an interview with World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, where Leo asks about player eligibility (For example, former All Black and Ulster star Charles Piutau would love to finish his career in a Samoa jersey).

“We debated this a lot in Council meetings,” Gosper replied. “There just does not seem to be the appetite for players to return [to play for their country of origin]. This one country approach to rugby is very tidy. The unions themselves, the members, are not overwhelmingly in favour for [CHANGE].”

That is precisely what Gosper told the media in 2016, when noting a “lack of appetite” among Council members for the three-year residency law to be extended. A few seconds later WR vice chairman Agustín Pichot rubbished the comments of his CEO. The law has since been changed to five years.

The doc shows that World Rugby and its Council members are as in touch with what the game needs as the prime ministers of Samoa and Fiji. It also offers some hope that progressive change could happen in an instant.

‘Oceans Apart - Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Islands Rugby’ is released this week.

Word of Mouth

“I can see a guy hitting the face of one of my men. It is not respect. I play for my country. That is not respect.” Argentina captain Pablo Matera tells the referee and everyone in the stadium that Los Pumas will not be intimidated.

“How these guys get on the board and get in positions of real power in Pacific Island unions - I think there needs to be a stronger directive from World Rugby. Brett Gosper would not be CEO of World Rugby if he had gone to prison for manslaughter.” Former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan.

“It is very difficult for us to hold a prime minister of a country accountable.”

Gosper on the Pacific Island rugby unions being controlled by their governments.

“Another legend who gave so much to Tigers only for the club to cast him aside without the planned exit he deserved. Our club now in the hands of Borthwick... going to be a long season.” Austin Healy on Geordan Murphy’s departure from Leicester Tigers after 23 years as player, coach and director of rugby.

“That is not acceptable in this game. If somebody makes a mistake we just get on with it. We don’t clap and cheer ok? I don’t want to see it happen again. Not in this game.” Nigel Owens, the chief guardian of faux rugby values, tells off the Ulster team for celebrating a sloppy handling error by Glasgow.

“Classic Nigel Owens telling players off. He’s right though - rugby is all about respect.” The Pro 14 twitter account clearly hasn’t watched the Oceans Apart documentary.

“Yes.” Wayne Pivac when asked if he is the man to turn Welsh fortunes around after six defeats.

“In the 58 years from 1960 to 2018, there were only 24 days where the average maximum temperature across the whole continent hit 39C or higher. In 2019 alone, there were 33 days. Scott Morrison we need climate action now!” David Pocock appeals to Australia’s Prime Minister.

“Every sports team [IN AMERICA], maybe bar one - the Green Bay Packers - has a controlling governor. In fact, it’s even a rule of the NBA. You’d have to have the ability to run it like a business, and I think everyone would benefit from that, including the union.” Marco Masotti, the New York-based but South African-raised corporate lawyer, on takeover talks with the Western Province Stormers, via his MVM consortium that includes Jay Z’s Roc Nation (in July).

“Everything Zelt Marais [president of Western Province union] has done through this process is indicative of self-serving interests. He doesn’t care what’s best for the players, the fans, the sponsors and the community, he only cares about one person - and that’s himself.” Michael Yormark, Roc Nation’s president of sport (last week).

‘This is a joke. Firstly, WP reached out to Marco, not the other way around. [MARAIS]is the one that put the current number on the table. Now he’s telling the media that this American group might not get approval for the process.” Yormack again.

“We are working towards a true partnership with the WPRFU so we can leverage our investment and our expertise to further develop a fantastic global brand. Furthermore, we wish to retract everything that was communicated through the media over the last four months.” Masotti’s MVM consortium on Saturday.

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