Rugby World Cup
Argentina's Fernandez Lobbe: 'If we lose, it's all over - it's that simple'
Rob Bartlett
September 24, 2015
Can Georgia cause another upset?

HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- Argentina could not have picked a more typically English setting for their starting World Cup base: overlooking the pristine golf course at Hanbury Manor Hotel in leafy Hertfordshire, guests tuck into traditional afternoon tea.

The mood is serene. Several players, dressed immaculately in the famous sky blue colours of Los Pumas, mill around the baronial Oak Hall tea rooms. But for the throng of passionately gesticulating South American journalists congregated in the corner, one could be forgiven in thinking they had stumbled into the aftermath of a corporate golf day.

"We've had a few rounds," Toulon's Heineken Cup-winning back-rower Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe told ESPN. "When we've had a day off we've played nine holes. It's good to just get away from rugby for a bit. I didn't win though -- I was far from it.

"It's been really good to just chill out and recover. It's good for training, it's good for the head and everybody is happy."

It's easy to see why. The view from the enormous Jacobean bay windows is stunning; 200 acres of classic, green English countryside stretch to the horizon. Fellow back-rower Leonardo Senatore poses in front of the fourth tee box for pictures.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina celebrates as Guido Petti Pagadizabal of Argentina goes over to score their first try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between New Zealand and Argentina at Wembley Stadium on September 20, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina celebrates as Guido Petti Pagadizabal goes over to score their first try © Getty Images

"Everything is perfect," Senatore said. "Since we arrived in England, we've felt the World Cup. It's in the street, it's in the schools and it's on the training ground. Every place that we go, there is a special feeling. You can feel it in the air.

"Everybody has been very kind to us and help us anyway they can. We are really enjoying our stay. I didn't play golf though, because of the rain. I don't like the rain."

Despite the tranquil surroundings, there's a familiar tension in the air -- the sort of feeling you get sat in the dentist's waiting room. Players laugh and joke as they pass each other, ushered from television cameras to round table, but once the questions start the mood shifts entirely. The smiles evaporate into concentrated looks.

Business is very much on the mind for Daniel Hourcade's side. After their opening loss to defending champions New Zealand, in front of a record crowd at Wembley, comes Friday's tantalising Pool C clash against Georgia in Gloucester.

Argentina 16-26 New Zealand (Australia only)

"For us it has become a knockout match. If we win, we stay in the competition -- if we lose, it's all over. It's that simple," Lobbe adds.

"Wembley was awesome. It was a lovely stadium -- to play in front of 89,000 people was just amazing. It was one of the greatest moments I've had in rugby."

Senatore shares similar sentiments -- but once Georgia is mentioned, he nervously begins shifting his weight from one leg to the other. "Georgia are a very tough team. They play physical rugby. They present a battle in every part of the game -- every scrum, every lineout. It's going to be tough."

The Lelos' emphatic victory over Tonga on Saturday may have been overshadowed by Japan's heroics against South Africa, but it didn't go unnoticed in the Argentina camp. Mamuka Gorgodze, Georgia's gargantuan captain, was mightily impressive against the Pacific Islanders. Lobbe, who plays alongside "Gorgodzilla" at Toulon, knows all too well the challenge his friend presents.

"I played against him when he was at Montpellier -- and it's easier when you have him on your side. He's dominant and pushes you forward," Lobbe said. "He works very, very hard and just loves playing rugby.

"He's a very good player but we saw against Tonga, their whole team committed in defence. They have a good squad and a very good lineout. There's a lot of things to think about when it comes to Georgia -- Mamuka is one of them but we need to focus on the whole team."

Experience, therefore, could prove vital if the Pumas are to achieve a fourth quarterfinal appearance in England. Lobbe is one of only three in the squad to hold over 10 World Cup caps and played the full 80 minutes of their semifinal defeat to South Africa eight years ago. Nineteen have made their tournament bows here, but that is no cause for concern amongst the old guard.

"They are so well prepared and trained nowadays that they just need to enjoy it," Lobbe said. "That's the only message I said to them. They've worked so hard to be here -- there's no other way but to enjoy it.

"We'll see where it goes. We want to go as far as possible. But it all starts Friday. At the moment it's all about preparing for Georgia and hopefully we can build some momentum and reach the quarterfinals."

Whatever the outcome in England, the future of Argentinian rugby certainly looks bright. Several of the current squad have already signed for the country's first Super Rugby franchise, which is set to make its debut in 2016.

"It's massive," Lobbe said. "It's playing against top quality players year-in year-out. That's what it's all about. It's going to be good for the team."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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