Plumping for Los Pumas

Perhaps the greatest association most people make between South America and rugby, if they make any at all, is the film 'Alive'. Yet followers of the sport won't need to be told that on the pitch Argentina's national side is up there with the best of them at Rugby Union.

Perhaps the greatest association most people make between South America and rugby, if they make any at all, is the film 'Alive'. That's the one that documents the gruesome survival exploits of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed high up in the Argentinian-Chilean Andes en route to a game in Chile in 1972.

Rugby, unsurprisingly enough, is just a footnote in that particular movie. Yet followers of the sport won't need to be told that on the pitch Argentina's national side is up there with the best of them at Rugby Union. Their third-place finish at the 2007 World Cup in France was fully merited, beating the hosts twice as they did.

Following that tournament, moves were made for Los Pumas to more regularly 'play with the big boys' by paving the way for the side's inclusion in the Southern Hemisphere's old annual Tri-Nations Championship, now called the Rugby Championship.

That eventually happened in 2012 and as a mark of their consistency in recent years, despite geographical isolation and resource issues at home, they recorded their first ever victory over South Africa this year. A notable scalp in a World Cup year.

The very least expected of them at this year's global renewal, which gets under way in England on September 18th, is a quarter-final appearance. World champions and tournament favourites New Zealand aside, Los Pumas should prove too strong for the other sides in their pool, namely Tonga, Georgia and Namibia. The Tongans could run them close, but you'd expect Argentina’s greater set-piece ability and test match know-how to see them home.

Coming second in their pool will more than likely see them meet either France or Ireland in the last eight. Neither side will have Argentina shaking in their boots. As mentioned, they have happy recent World Cup memories of meeting France while they're also used to derailing Irish ambitions; there's usually not too much between them on the scoreboard.

Were they to emulate their 2007 run and reach the semi-finals, a clash with Australia or hosts England could be on the cards. It's not an impossibility, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves at this remove.

It must be said the Argentinians are not the only South American representatives; Uruguay are also at the party. Yet the chances of them enjoying any on-field fiestas are between slim and none. They find themselves in the toughest pool alongside Australia, England, Wales and Fiji. Keeping losing margins respectable will be Uruguay's chief objective.

As for outright winners, it's difficult to see past the All Blacks retaining their title. However, should they show any chinks in their armour Australia, England, France and perhaps Ireland appear best placed of the chasing pack to take advantage. It's stretching it a bit to put Argentina in that group, but maybe they can prove us wrong. Vamos Los Pumas!

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