Argentina are an integral part of the rugby landscape. They've never consistently performed at the top, but certainly have the talent to compete and overcome any side. They are a dark horse to get gold at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with arguably the easiest route to the final, but will have to overcome England or Japan in the group stages. Lets take a look at the history of rugby in Argentina.
It all began when Scottish railroad workers introduced it to Argentine students. The game spread through Buenos Aires and around the country. In 1873, the first rugby game in Argentina took place.
Rugby soon became popular among the locals, and by 1889 there were already eight rugby clubs in Buenos Aires. Argentina played their first ever international match against Uruguay in July 1902, losing 6-0.
Rugby in Argentina experienced a lull during the 1920s and 30s, but started to gain popularity again in the 1950s. The country's first international victory came in 1951 against Chile.
The Argentinian Rugby Union (UAR) was founded in 1959. Twenty nine years later, at the first world cup, Los Pumas were grouped with Fiji, Italy and hosts New Zealand. First up, they got battered by Fiji, but managed to overcome Italy, even though Azzuri had the great Italian scrum-half, Sandro Gini. In their final game of group stages, they took on the All Blacks in Wellington. 46 points to 14 later, and Argentina were out of the tournament.
While Basketball and football are still garner far more support and interest in Argentina, rugby's popularity still seems to be rising.
There are around 15,000 registered players, with total participation in rugby reaching nearly 100,000 people.
Argentina's has a strong national club competition, consisting of teams from all over the country. The Torneo de la URBA is the biggest and most prestigious club tournament in Argentina. It is contested by 32 clubs, and is played over two rounds (a group stage and a knockout stage).
Argentina are also producing in the Sevens department, with 21-year-old Argentine, Marcos Moneta, winning the 2021 World Rugby's Mens Player of the Year. Isn't it about time we saw the Sevens circuit stop off in South America?