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Tomas Cubelli: Argentina's free licence can break new ground

Published 22/10/2015

Tomas Cubelli, second left, cries during the national anthem before Argentina's World Cup quarter-final with Ireland
Tomas Cubelli, second left, cries during the national anthem before Argentina's World Cup quarter-final with Ireland

Tomas Cubelli insists freedom of expression will be crucial to Argentina's chances of reaching a maiden World Cup final.

The softly-spoken 26-year-old will share scrum-half duties with Martin Landajo in Sunday's World Cup semi-final against Australia, reprising their career-long friendly rivalry once more.

Argentina's fearless attacking has lit up the World Cup, head coach Daniel Hourcade telling his charges "we play with our heart in our hand".

The passionate Pumas are free to imprint individual and collective personality into their rugby, and Cubelli believes the results speak for themselves.

"I think people act in the game as they are in life," said Cubelli, signed up to Argentina's new Super Rugby franchise.

"It's a rule that as you are outside of the field that's how you'll play.

"The Jesuits say, 'we are as we practise sport', and I agree with that.

"It's great when teams really express as a team and individuals.

"And it's great when all the individuals are expressing the same objective.

"I think good things come from that."

"Good things" translates as the 43-20 quarter-final victory over Ireland, the Pumas pouncing for two deadly tries inside the first 10 minutes and refusing to allow Joe Schmidt's side to recover.

Now head coach Hourcade's men face their second World Cup semi-final in eight years, with many anticipating a watershed moment in the Pumas' history.

The inception of the Super Rugby franchise, based in Buenos Aires, will hand the nation's game a real home.

Argentina have already flourished in the Rugby Championship thanks to regular clashes with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

A club foothold could easily accelerate their progress once again.

More vague but nevertheless still important however, is the concept of identity. New Zealand's World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry helped Argentina rediscover theirs in 2012.

Henry used his consultancy stint to tell the Pumas to be themselves. Hourcade and company have never looked back.

Cubelli shares half-back duties with Landajo, and in terms of personality the two could hardly be more apposite.

Where Cubelli keeps counsel and stays quiet, Landajo seeks company and cracks jokes.

Each nine is just as important as the other to the Pumas, and despite their different characteristics, Cubelli admitted they remain firm friends.

"He is a funny guy, very sharp," said Cubelli of the 27-year-old Landajo.

"Maybe I'm a little bit more serious, a bit more shy.

"I also like to joke a little bit, but a little bit more shy.

"I've shared a lot of squads with Martin, not only the Pumas, the Pampas XV and the Jaguars.

"We've played a lot of tournaments together, and even across a whole tournament we would play one game each.

"It's a special rivalry for me. It's a pleasure to share and to fight for a jersey with another player.

"It makes you sure that you are always at the top of your game, and that's very good.

"It's always up to the coach of course, this position.

"But it's great for me to compete with Martin."

Cubelli believes Argentina's family spirit stems from the game's amateur roots.

"Yes we are lucky to have great rugby players, but we are even more lucky to have great friends and great people," said Cubelli.

"It maybe comes with the way we are educated in our clubs in Argentina.

"Rugby in Argentina is amateur, first of all in most of the clubs you are educated as a good person, a good team-mate, and afterwards as a good player.

"Because sometimes we don't have the structures, all the coaches study the game of course but at some points we don't have the resources at that level.

"We might not have fantastic resources but we have great human resources, that's what we have and we have to do that well.

"If we don't have that then we can't compete."

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