Argentina is moving closer to take what has become their rightful place in the rugby universe, as the junior member of the Tri-Nations competition – potentially in 2012.
Why “junior member” you might ask? Because Argentina is making a big jump from competition like the IRB Americas Rugby Championship, where they would face the U.S., Canada and Tonga (who is stepping in with an invite) to face off with the three best national teams in the world. (For measurement, Argentina is ranked #8 in the latest world rankings)
For a quick lesson, let’s look back in time ten or so years…
When Italy joined the then-5 Nations in 2000 they also filled this role, especially facing England and Ireland. (For those of you who don’t know, the Five Nations at the time consisted of the British Isles national teams, plus France)
One can argue that the experiment has been a failure so far, since the Italians have yet to capture a winning season, much less a Six Nations title – racking up only seven wins against 47 losses. But if you look at the Italians from a more holistic standpoint, they have started presenting a more professional front as a national rugby union, and their play has definitely become much more disciplined as a result of playing these higher profile teams.
Argentina has the opportunity for the same benefit – developing a more professional organization overall, and measuring their potential against the best in the world.
I remember a few years back, there had been talk about adding the U.S. national team to what was (then ) the Super 12 rugby tournament. An interesting idea, but the logistics would have sucked – it’s hard enough for the South Africans in the Tri Nations(apparently since they keep threatening to leave SANZAR) and they are in the Southern Hemisphere. It would be interesting to see the U.S. in the Six Nations, but until they can beat the Canadians and the match up with Argentina, the U.S. has its own problems to address.