Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:19
New coach brings new hope
Joaquín Tuculet will play in his first Rugby Championship match, when Argentina face South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday, and he will be the third fullback to start for the Pumas in the tournament.
The crucial No.15 jersey still has no defined owner, just a year out from the World Cup.
Argentina are taking part in their third tournament where they go head-to-head with the Southern Hemisphere super powers and the former Los Tilos back follow in the wake of Lucas González Amorosino (2012) and Juan Martín Hernández (2013) to have been the starting fullback.
Tuculet, who turned 25 just over a week ago, has found favour with new Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade and has been promoted to the front of the No.15s queue.
Having played for the Argentine Under-20 team, Los Pumitas, at the IRB Junior World Championship in Wales 2008 and Japan 2009, he also featured in four tournaments for Argentina during the 2010 Sevens World Series.
The next year he made the leap from the amateur ranks to the professional arena - when he featured prominently for the Pampas XV in their successful Vodacom Cup campaign under the tutelage of Hourcade.
The next two years he played for English Premiership side Sale Sharks and in June of 2012 he was called up to make his senior Test debut in the internationals against Italy and against France. He played fullback against Azzurri and then outside centre against the French.
He then joined Grenoble, who swept the second division Pro D2 and gained promotion to the Top 14. He featured in 22 games for the French club, then earned himself another call-up to the Pumas for the year-end tour - where they beat Wales and lost to France.
That year, in what was the Pumas's debut in the Rugby Championship, the fullback role was shared between González Amorosino and Rodríguez Gurruchag.
Tuculet missed the 2013 June Tests.
He had hoped to make a big impact in the Championship, but played only off the bench in Mendoza against the Springboks, a game where Hernández was out through injury.
The first choice for the No.15 jersey was González Amorosino.
The tournament spelled end of Phelan as Pumas coach.
Tuculet featured for the Jaguars (Argentina B) in the Americas Championship in Canada and he knew immediately that the arrival Hourcade as Pumas mentor would provide greater opportunities for selection on the year-end tour to Wales and Italy.
After he finished a brief stint with Bordeaux in France, as a medical joker, he again put his hand up as a selection possibility with the Pumas.
In May this year Tuculet was called up to train with senior national squad, following the successful Pacific Nations Cup where the Pampas swept the boards, and then featured in the June Tests - where he started in the two matches against Ireland and had a cameo against Scotland .
On Thursday Tuculet was confirmed as the starting fullback in the Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks in Pretoria.
It has to be asked if his most recent appearances, which ended in defeat for the Pumas, are bad omens for what's to come at Loftus Versfeld?
By Christian Gómez Csher, Rugby Fun
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