Pumas to field strongest combinations

Australia Rugby Union boss John O’Neill has allayed concerns that Argentina won’t have their best players available for the 2012 Rugby Championship.

The newly-established tournament will see the Pumas pitted against South Africa, Australia and world champions New Zealand. However, the tournament schedule overlaps with the European rugby season. Many of Argentina’s key players ply their trade there, and their potential unavailability was the major obstacle to the Pumas’ competitiveness.

European sides have generally been reluctant to release their Argentina internationals during the club season, however, O’Neill said negotiations with the IRB on this issue were successful.

‘The IRB, with our help, changed the regulations relating to the availability, so opened the window such that the clubs had to release the players to play in the Rugby Championship,’ O’Neill said.

‘They need to be competitive, they’ll be found out if they are not. That’s not a suggestion they are on trial, they are a fiercely proud, fiercely competitive nation. On the day, the way they play, they can choke you to death. I’m confident we’re going to see an enhanced Rugby Championship.’

O’Neill continued, suggesting that the southern hemisphere’s calendar was now full in light of an expanded Super Rugby tournament and the Rugby Championship. ‘That’s really at the maximum level of tolerance in terms of just how much rugby we can fit into a year and the player welfare component of it is quite significant,’ O’Neill said.

‘The coaches in particular and the medical staff and the strength and conditioning people in all four countries, particularly the SANZAR countries, are very conscious of the need to manage the playing stocks sensibly. But it’s as much rugby as we can possibly play without being ridiculous.’