Argentina Under 20 coach Rodrigo Ambrosio has a simple message for his players as they head to New Zealand for the IRB Junior World Championship – playing for their country is “priceless” and they must “embrace the spirit of playing in the national jersey”.
Ambrosio guided Argentina to their best ever finish of fourth in the 2012 tournament in South Africa and knows that playing in New Zealand, a country where rugby is a national passion, can only make the experience better for his young charges.
“For me, the biggest drive will be for them to actually represent Argentina and play for their country,” Ambrosio told Total Rugby. “That will be the pinnacle for them. The fact it is in New Zealand makes it even better because we will enjoy their folklore and passion for rugby.
“However, playing for Argentina, that is priceless and you can do it anywhere and still feel that. Our players have to embrace the spirit of playing in the national jersey.”
Back row Santiago Montagner is one player relishing the chance to represent his country in New Zealand, where the tournament takes place in Auckland from 2-20 June.
“I think it will be absolutely amazing, mainly because rugby is the main sport there. It must be similar to the way football is adored in Argentina, so if you are walking down the street you must feel a great passion for the people there. I think it will be very emotional and beautiful knowing that we are playing the nation’s favourite sport.”
There are a number of players in the Los Pumitas’ squad who were involved in the 2013 edition in France and Montagner admits they have passed on their experiences to the class of 2014 who will hope to better that sixth place finish.
“Quite a lot of our squad have already competed in the Junior World Championship and they tell us that we have to make the most of this opportunity. That it is a beautiful experience both personally and for the team.
“We are working very hard to be able to make the most of it and this is why we are giving all we have, both on the pitch and off it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity which will help us for the rest of our lives.”
The future is something that is very important to Ambrosio with the Under 20 programme playing an important role in the development of Argentina’s future stars, no fewer than 48 players having graduated from the Junior World Championship to Test rugby with Los Pumas.
“For those involved in the Under 20s, we always have to expectation that some players will progress into the national senior teams,” explained Ambrosio, whose side will face defending champions England, Australia and Italy in Pool A at JWC 2014.
“For us that would be the biggest achievement, however for the boys they are more focused on winning the tournament. That is fantastic too, but we cannot divert our focus from the fact that we are trying to prepare players for the future of Argentina.”