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Putting on his Sunday best is all that matters to Fernandez Lobbe

Published 17/10/2015

Argentina flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, left, will quit Test rugby after the World Cup
Argentina flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, left, will quit Test rugby after the World Cup

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe's eyes bulge at the thought, then Argentina's effervescent back-row forward swipes it straight aside.

The end of his Pumas career is nigh, whether or not Argentina beat Ireland in Sunday's World Cup quarter-final.

Come the close of the tournament, the superstar, titan loose-forward will quit Test rugby, forced to choose between the country he loves and the club he cannot live without.

After the World Cup any Argentinian not on board with the Pumas' new Super Rugby franchise will be ineligible for Test selection: Fernandez Lobbe embraces the reality of his situation, and yet the harshness fails to fade.

"No I don't see myself finding a way out of my Toulon contract and joining the new franchise," said Fernandez Lobbe, signed up with Toulon until 2017.

"I enjoy this jersey the most, it's something I love.

"But I don't see myself playing Super Rugby, so maybe that's something that is the end for me.

"I don't want to put myself with another extra load, because this game is a very big thing.

"I just need to think about what I need to do to perform well on Sunday."

At 33 and at some point bound to tip over the peak and past his best - though not any time soon judging by his classic form - Fernandez Lobbe's decision to stay at Toulon is equal parts altruism and capitalising on a good thing.

French aristocrats Toulon boast the best set-up in world rugby, billionaire comic book magnate owner Mourad Boudjellal looking after his players to a matchless tune.

The Cote d'Azur lifestyle suits Fernandez Lobbe and his family - why wouldn't it - so staying put is a no-brainer.

But then, club commitments will shortly stymie country ambitions. And there comes the hard part.

The Pumas' passion revolves around the collective ahead of the self, and Fernandez Lobbe embodies such togetherness.

When the time comes to remove the fabled blue and white hoops for the final time, the sadness will doubtless overwhelm one of rugby's most fluent performers, and candid talkers.

But he will pass that shirt to the next generation, giving coach Daniel Hourcade a full four-year cycle to build a new back-row for World Cup 2019 in Japan.

There are those who would cling on until the bitter end, and then there is Fernandez Lobbe.

"Ireland have a great scrum," said Fernandez Lobbe, immediately refocusing on Sunday's quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium.

"We've been analysing it this week: they have 95 per cent of good, clean ball to play from and that's really, really good.

"They don't give away penalties from it and they have a great lineout too.

"They have lost maybe their leader in Paul O'Connell to injury, but we saw Devin Toner last week against France taking control of their lineout.

"After that, one thing that impresses me the most is the way they keep the ball.

"We must be very clinical with the ball, we need to use it very well, because if we give the ball away it's maybe going to get very complicated to recover it."

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