Argentina coach Santiago Gómez Cora says the inclusion of RWC 2015 stars Juan Imhoff (pictured) and Matías Moroni gives his side “an added dimension” as they prepare to go for gold at Rio 2016.
Imhoff, a key figure for Los Pumas at both RWC 2011 and 2015, impressed Gómez Cora sufficiently in his recent outing in the final round of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London in May, to win a place in the 12-man squad, while Moroni is set to add the Olympics to a playing CV that includes Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 and RWC 2015.
Imhoff made himself available for Rio despite a tight schedule with French Top 14 champions Racing 92, which forced him to miss all of the team’s preparation, including a two-week camp south of Rio. He joined the squad earlier this week on his return from a well-earned summer break.
“He is a star player and in London he showed us how important he was despite his lack of sevens experience,” Gómez Cora said of Imhoff. “Both him and Moroni can play in the forwards and the backs, which gives us an added dimension to our game-plan.”
Imhoff has only two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments to his name, the first in Dubai 2009, when he failed to take to the field. Since his debut at the Gold Coast Sevens in 2012, 25-year-old Moroni has racked up 13 tournaments, mostly before his 15s career took precedence.
The rest of the squad is selected from the players with world series experience with the return of Javier Rojas, who missed eight tournaments last season due to his club commitments in France, and the inclusion of Juan Pablo Estelles, who is back to his best after an injury-ridden career, the two most notable selections.
Estelles showed his class in Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and London while Rojas was always in Gómez Cora’s thoughts despite only playing the last two tournaments of the 2015-16 series.
“It was a very difficult squad to select as those players that missed out failed to make the cut because of very small margins. I thank each and every player for what he has done,” said Gómez Cora.
The team will be led by the vastly-experienced Gastón Revol, a regular in the team since his debut in 2009 in London, and now standing on 49 world series tournaments. Santiago Álvarez, a veteran of 22 tournaments, is his vice-captain.
“As a team we are very confident of our possibilities. There is a lot of pride in the squad and the hunger to represent our country,” said Revol.
“We never play this close to home so I invite everybody to come and support us in Rio. The return of rugby to the Olympic Games promises to be an incredible occasion. I can’t wait for the Games to start.”
Argentina squad: Santiago Alvarez, Juan Pablo Estelles, Rodrigo Etchart, Bautista Ezcurra, Juan Imhoff, Fernando Luna, Matías Moroni, Axel Müller, Gastón Revol (captain), Javier Rojas, Franco Sábato, Germán Schulz.