The songs and the watts of the Argentinian sounding resound 12 years later in the head of the French rugbymen. On October 19, 2007, the Pumas had celebrated with a crash the bronze medal won at the World Cup held in France, with a clear victory over the Blues (34-10) at the Parc des Princes. That day, the Argentines, who had already beaten the French in the first group match, had loudly expressed their joy in the mixed zone reserved for the media. French players had not appreciated their exuberance. And the tension was as palpable as on the field during the match.
The two teams have had the opportunity to compete 11 times since this competition, with 6 victories for France and 5 for Argentina. A balanced balance sheet that does not reflect the rise of Pumas in recent years. At the 2015 World Cup, the South Americans have indeed managed to reach the semi-finals, falling against Australia (15-29), while the Blues were swept from the quarterfinals (13-62 ) by New Zealanders, future world champions. The Argentines have since embarked on a new cycle of preparation to bring them even higher.
After trying in vain to get closer to the European nations in which its most brilliant elements evolved, Argentina finally opted for a development model turned towards the southern hemisphere. In addition to the Rugby Championship, which she started in 2012 against South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, she also has since 2016 a team in Super Rugby, the championship that brings together the best provinces of these same southern nations. As a result, the best players in the country, employees of the Argentine federation, evolve in the first half of the year with the Jaguares before continuing their season in the shirt of the Pumas.
This new organization allows Argentina to play many more international matches and not run after its players scattered in the best European clubs. It's up to them to choose between a career with the Jaguares and the Pumas or a more rewarding experience on the Old Continent. The second option prevailed: at the 2015 World Cup, around 80% of Argentinian players were playing in Europe. Four years later, the proportion has completely reversed. Only a few exceptions were made for essential players, like the two openers Nicolas Sanchez and Benjamin Urdapilleta who play respectively at the French Stadium in Paris and Castres Olympique: they will wear the jersey Pumas in Japan.
Pumas on a series of 9 defeats
In their first World Cup match, the Blues will cross a little less known heads in the opposing ranks. And the reunion should be a little less hot. "In my day, we faced the Blues every weekend on the grounds of the championship of France, we knew we could compete and we had fewer complexes, we knew we could beat them," says France 24 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, who wore the Argentinian jersey 44 times and notably played in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
Today, in the coaching club Perpignan (USAP) where he played for 10 years, he does not know if the same desire to beat the Bleus lives players more accustomed to face teams from the other hemisphere. But he does not doubt the determination of the Pumas who need to win to launch their World Cup, in a very qualified qualifying hen that also includes the formidable England, the United States and Tongas. "I hope the Argentines are going to beat France, which scares me a lot because they've had some really good matches in the last few months, but they've lost a lot," he added. , champion of France with the Catalans in 2009.
In fact, the last victory of the Pumas goes back a year, with a feat signed in Australia. Since then, Argentina has lost 9 times: 6 times against teams from the southern hemisphere and 3 times in Europe during the tour organized last November. The Pumas had then been clearly beaten by the Blues in Lille (13-28) who were delighted to dominate their future opponent in the World Cup. A welcome burst of confidence for tricolores badly in point on the international scene for several seasons. For the two teams that will face Saturday, September 21 in Tokyo, victory is essential. In addition to allowing to consider more serenely a qualification for the quarterfinals, it will mark a new stage in the Franco-Argentine oval relations. It can allow the Pumas to show that they are now evolving in another dimension and the Blues to prove that they are still part of the best nations in the world.