Argentina focused on England at the world cup

Argentina have put 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool opponents England in their sights as they look to emulate the heroics of the 2007 World Cup Pumas who finished in third place.

The South Americans will be hoping to unearth some new stars in the world cup as they join and expanded TriNations in 2012 and have struggled after losing several 2007 stars such as captain Agustin Pichot.

Argentina have been put in the same pool as England, Scotland, Georgia and Romania in pool B and have planned a few international warm ups ahead of the world cup which starts in September.

While Argentina are ranked much lower than England coach Santiago Phelan has little tolerance for excuses as they set their sites on 2003 Rugby World Cup champions England on September the 10th.

“I don’t think there’s an equation between playing many or few matches before a World Cup,” Phelan told Reuters.

“I’d have liked one more test match but the bottom line is this is the reality of our rugby and the important thing is to optimise every one of the matches we have.”

The Six Nations and TriNations countries take part in the world’s major international tournaments which gives their players regular exposure to international rugby but Argentina have only been able to make do with the June and November test windows as the Union was reluctant to go professional.

Their last international was a defeat to Ireland in Dublin which is almost six months ago so the Pumas will play the French Barbarians in two matches over the next two weekends and have scheduled an August test against Wales in Cardiff.

While the team will have had less practice than their pool rivals England and Scotland the players are enthusiastic about their chances of beating England at the world cup.

“Argentina must not start thinking about the last (group) match against Georgia, the quarter-finals or any further than the first match,” prop Rodrigo Roncero told Reuters.

“Our thoughts must be solely on England which is the 10th of September and to build towards that match … If we start the World Cup playing a good match against England I think many things can change.”

Captain Felipe Contepomi added: “I’m convinced that if we prepare in an excellent way we could even beat England, which is not to say we will beat England nor that we’re better than Scotland or England.

“Both countries are above Argentina in the rankings but that does not mean the Pumas won’t qualify for the quarter-finals.”

A major concern for coach Phelan is the recovery from knee surgery of flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez, who also had a back operation last year.

“It’s a delicate issue,” Phelan said of Hernandez, who plays for French club Racing Metro.

“Obviously, if he’s in condition to do so, we’ll try to get him included in our preparations … We are betting on a good recovery.”

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