Rugby World Cup
Daniel Hourcade's five changes that transformed Argentina into a winning unit
Patricio Connolly
October 23, 2015
Can Argentina upset Australia?

LONDON -- Daniel Hourcade in two years has transformed a team in transition into a winning unit. The Pumas had already given some sign of progress in the Rugby Championship in 2012 and 2013, but they lacked strength in their game. There wasn´t a bond among the players and there were problems with the staff, which led to the resignation of Santiago Phelan. Before long, everything changed. And now the Argentine national team will play their second Rugby World Cup semifinal eight years after their first at France 2007. Hourcade has imposed his style since taking over. At first it wasn't easy, but by 2014 there were indications the path taken was headed in the right direction. He are the five key decisions he made that, in retrospect, were the foundations of the 2015 squad.

Creevy´s Captaincy

Agustin Creevy
Agustin Creevy© Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images

It was a surprise when Hourcade decided to give the captain's responsibility to the hooker, who until then hadn't even been a starter due to the presence of Eusebio Guinazu. Plus, it meant removing the captaincy from Juan Fernandez Lobbe, one of the veterans. But Creevy, as well as the coach, gave the team a different vibe. The cohesion of the oldest with the youngest members began to flow since he was in the middle of both worlds. The mood was lightened. And that had an obvious effect on the court. Everyone now appreciates that union, and Creevy is key to its success.

Players to watch: Australian breakdown stars
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Increase The Base

Since the first conference as head coach, Hourcade spoke about adding players to the Pumas. About giving opportunities to the youngest ones. He referred to the importance of having three or four players for each position. It was when Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Lucas Paz Noguera, Julian Montoya, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa and many more were added and who are now crucial to this team in the Cup. Besides, he gave stability and prominence to those who had already made that leap like Thomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera and Santiago Cordero. He tested them against the best at the highest level at times when he was questioned for not choosing different players. Now, they are the spare parts that were missing.

© David Rogers/Getty Images

The Offensive Style

What he had done with Pampas XV was replicated in the Pumas. He changed their philosophy. And the players who had not experimented that in South Africa's Vodacom Cup, were persuaded. It took some time. But today they are the torchbearers of that inclination to the tries. Nobody else was talking about defence and tackles anymore, something innate in the heart of an Argentine player, and the skills, the offloads and taking risks were favoured. That way, the team went from making a few tries to be the one with the second most in England, behind the All Blacks and the Wallabies and ahead of the Springboks no more, no less.

© Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sanchez at 10 with Hernandez at 12

Hourcade always wanted Joachuin Tuculet at full-back. And he had felt a devotion for Nicholas Sanchez at fly-half since their times with the Pampas. He had to find a place for Juan Martin Hernandez, and he did so. As a second pitcher, inside centre, he helped Hourcade and Sanchez in the decision making. And together, both players gave the team a different look. When one of them is missing, that absence is felt. Despite the great match Juani played at 10 in Durban this year, Nico regained the position and has fulfilled the expectations of his game, his defence and his effectiveness. He´s the second-leading scorer in this World Cup with 74 points.

Juan Martin Hernandez goes past Giorgi Nemsadze
Juan Martin Hernandez goes past Giorgi Nemsadze© Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
© Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Bet On Cordero

Santiago Cordero had no place in the team until the injuries of Manuel Montero and Matias Orlando, and Gonzalo Camacho´s absence, this year,. But Hourcade decided to play his card. They worked in Cordero's defence, which was his weakness, and gave him freedom in the attack. He played for the first time against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship in Christchurch, and now he´s one of the revelations of this World Cup and one of the strongest assets of the Pumas. He has scored tries, assisted tries and made the difference every time he has touched the ball.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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