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Rugby - Pumas coach Hourcade assesses state of his team

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Rugby - Pumas coach Hourcade assesses state of his team

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By Rex Gowar (Reuters) – Heads are high in the Argentina camp ahead of the Rugby Championship but channelling their temperament could be the difference between taking the step up from the one win they have achieved for the last three years and their goal of two or more this season, according to coach Daniel Hourcade. Most of Argentina’s game is in the mind, the coach said, as he prepared the Pumas for their sixth campaign in the southern hemisphere championship, which begins against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Aug. 19. “Eighty per cent (of the game) is in the mind, there’s no doubt,” Hourcade told Reuters in an interview. “Being good in the head is not enough, nor is only technique, the two combined is ideal but in rugby and because of our way of experiencing rugby, getting our heads right is of tremendous importance.” The Pumas have often let themselves down by not staying focused for a full match, but on the other hand they can be very good when they are in the right frame of mind. “It can lift us a lot, especially … when we are the underdogs,” he said. The confidence in the squad might sound strange after two defeats by a second string England side in June left them with one win in 10 tests since they beat South Africa a year ago. A subsequent 45-29 win over Georgia followed by two Super Rugby victories in Australia in their other guise as the Jaguares, however, have given Argentina’s players a boost in confidence. “They played some very good rugby, especially against the Waratahs, and came home in a good frame of mind, enthusiastic and with confidence,” Hourcade said. “Everyone is available, we have no injuries, a complete squad, a nice, very strong internal competition (for places) with the lovely problem of whom to leave out. “It had been a while since that happened to us.” Hourcade, known to everyone as “Huevo” , or egg,  the unusual nickname his brother gave him because of the shape of his head, is in his fourth year as Pumas coach where he has tried to develop a more expansive game. It took them to fourth place at the 2015 World Cup but there has been a cost in other areas and Hourcade has been putting an emphasis on defence and scrummaging this year. Despite the 38-34 and 35-25 defeats to an England side without its British and Irish Lions players in June, Hourcade was satisfied the work done on defence as the Jaguares in Super Rugby was bearing fruit. While the scrum once provided Argentina with a point of difference, the modern game has placed more varied demands on tight forwards, however, and it was taking time for them to adapt, Hourcade said. “All teams in Argentina try to play like the Pumas, who set the trend,” he said. “There was great dedication to the scrum by all teams at every level and the emergence of great props, well trained with a lot of technique, it was our DNA. “But you can’t have props who only play in the scrum. Even seeking greater mobility, we still have difficulties achieving the dynamics we need, especially in defence. It’s very difficult if they can’t move about fast. “Increasingly, the scrum is a launching platform more than a lethal weapon as it was in another era.”

(Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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