2023 Rugby World Cup: Argentina dreams of being the dark horse

The tournament starts this Friday with Los Pumas looking to improve on its 2019 performance

Los Pumas will play its opening match this Saturday. Credit: Pixabay

The Argentina national rugby union team, better known as Los Pumas, will make its debut in the 2023 Rugby World Cup next Saturday against England. The team, led by Australian coach Michael Cheika, looks to make it into the quarterfinals after being eliminated in the first round at Japan 2019.

The tenth Rugby World Cup will take place in France between September 8 and October 28, kicking off this Friday as the hosts clash with three-time winners New Zealand at the Stade de France.

The tournament’s format is similar to other world cup competitions. A total of 20 national teams are split into groups of five. The top 12 teams qualify automatically based on their performance at the previous World Cup, while the rest come through the qualifiers.

In the group stage, teams play four games, and eight teams — the winner and runner-up from each group — enter the knockout stage. The knockout stage consists of quarter- and semi-finals, and then the final.

The Pumas share Group D with England, Japan, Samoa and newcomers Chile. They are one of the favorites to make it to the quarterfinals. On paper, only the English appear as strong rivals for Argentina, but they arrive at the World Cup having won just three of their last nine games. That sets up the game on Saturday in Marseille’s Stade Velodrome as a key fixture, which could settle who the group winners are.

After that, Argentina will play Samoa on September 22 at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne; Chile on September 30 at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, and lastly Japan, on October 8 in the same stadium.

Since taking over as coach in March 2022, Cheika has achieved important results with the Pumas, such as its second-ever win against England, 30-29 at the historic Twickenham Stadium in November 2022.

“It is an important match having to face England, but I don’t think about them, I’m confident in the work we have been doing,” said Cheika in the run up to Saturday’s game.

The favorites to lift the trophy, which is called theWebb Ellis Cup, are World Rugby ranking leaders Ireland. New Zealand’s All Blacks, title-defenders South Africa (tied with the most titles at three each) and hosts France are also among the main candidates. Potential dark horses include two-time winners Australia, England and Argentina.

The Pumas look to improve on their performance in the Japan 2019 World Cup, where England eliminated them in the group stage with a 39-10 victory.

Argentina’s best performance in the Rugby World Cup came in 2007, when the tournament was also hosted in France. There, the team led by Agustín Pichot surprised the world by beating the hosts to win their group, and then made it all the way to the semifinals, where it fell to eventual champions South Africa. Argentina shocked hosts France once again in the third-place game, winning 34-10 to become the bronze medalists.

The Pumas will face off against England this Saturday, September 9, at 9 p.m. local time, 4 p.m. Argentina. The match can be watched on ESPN and streaming service Star+.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald