The last time the Lions visited Argentina was in 1936, when they won all ten matches by an aggregate of 399 points to 12. On this tour, their third to Argentina, the 23 man squad featured only ten current internationals, something that would be unheard of for the Lions in the modern era.
This is one of the touring team’s biggest objections for touring the South American nations. Of course the Pumas’ progress has been remarkable in recent times with them managing to beat Wales for the first time in eleven years at the Millennium Stadium in October, but only a few weeks afterwards Ireland managed to put 46 points on them to Argentina’s 24.
Argentina’s advancement in the international game has led to a bit of a debate on whether the Lions should include them on their itinerary and that is one of the biggest compliments you could pay them.
Rugby is an amateur sport in the country, with nearly all of their international XV playing in England and France. Although the players are based outside of their home-country, they have managed to become a very decent team and are now ranked eighth in the world.
In this month’s Rugby World, ‘The Big Debate’ is on whether the Lions should travel to Argentina or not. Arguing for this is twelve times capped England Outside-Half; Les Cusworth. Les believes that once Argentina establish two Super Rugby teams in the country, something he believes is not too far away, then the Pumas would be the ideal hosts for a shorter Lions trip of eight matches.
With most of the Pumas playing in either England or France, he proposes that the Lions tour at a later date of June – July, so that it wouldn’t interfere with the domestic season in Europe. Les Cusworth also believes that this would be of benefit to the Lions because it would mean that they could have time to prepare before touring.
Cusworth who has been Argentina’s Director of Rugby since 2006, believes it would be a great opportunity to develop another emerging nation such as the United States by touring Argentina.
Willie John McBride, one of the most famous Lions captains in history, doesn’t think the Argentinians are capable of hosting a Lions tour due to the fact that Rugby is not yet professional in the country. He also believes that including another nation in the Lions’ itinerary would ruin the structure of touring the three traditional nations; New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. With injuries becoming more common, and rugby careers getting shorter, Willie John is worried touring Argentina would result in legendary players missing out on playing against the Lions, and the player from the Home Nations would miss out on touring the original three.
Of course, the Lions played Argentina in a warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium in 2005 before touring New Zealand which finished in a draw. Could we see them playing each other soon?
The debate is already very interesting, but if the Argentinian national side were to develop even more, and if they were to become represented in Super Rugby then it would become even more of a pressing issue.
What is your view on this? Please vote in the poll below.