For birthday boy Juan Manuel Leguizamón, taking the field against Fiji Warriors on his 35th birthday on Wednesday, far from his wife, two daughters and seven-month old son, is not a burden.
The 82-test veteran would love to be preparing to tackle Wales on Saturday with Los Pumas, but he is happy to be where he is, leading Argentina XV out in the second round of the World Rugby Nations Cup 2018 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
“Of course, I want to play for my country and Rugby World Cup 2019 is a huge dream of mine,” insisted Leguizamón
“There are many steps before and right now, being here in this environment, is a joy. I see Argentina XV as a stepping stone back to Los Pumas. I have not lost the will, physically and mentally I am very fit and still enjoying the game.”
Leguizamón made his test debut after three seasons with the U21 team in 2005, when his youngest Argentina XV team-mate Facundo Cordero was only six. He is closer to his coaches – he played at Rugby World Cup 2007 and 2011 with head coach Felipe Contepomi – than his team-mates.
“I have found an ambitious team, with talented players that want to progress,” he explained. “I knew very few of them, but I am getting to know them and it is great that they ask me questions rather than me talking. I am really enjoying it.”
Leguizamón is one of 12 changes to the starting line-up that beat Emerging Italy 19-8 in the opening round of the Nations Cup on Saturday, and he will not only bring experience but real hunger as he has played very little for Los Jaguares this season in Super Rugby.
While the Argentina XV squad may feature many young players, he is joined by fellow Pumas Tomás Cubelli and Matías Moroni, who are both on the comeback trail after injuries.
“The Nations Cup is very good for the boys, extremely valuable, as it helps their formation as rugby players.”
Legui, as he is known, focuses only on the positives and has a clear view on the goals the team have set for the tournament.
“Progress individually and as a team in how we play. We have to prove that we are capable of doing what the coaches want of us. We all know that if in these three games we achieve that, good things will happen.”
In Wednesday's other match, Uruguay face an Emerging Italy side chasing their first win Nations Cup win in the country after losing three times last year and in the opening round of this, the 13th edition of the competition. While the Italians are keen to break their duck, Los Teros have a clear focus themselves.
“We have made six changes and one positional move to rotate players and ensure they all play similar amount of minutes,” explained coach Esteban Meneses. “We are expecting the Italians to be very strong, we do want to win the Nations Cup again, of course, but our real goal is to continue preparation for Japan 2019.
“In that sense, tournaments such as this gives us quality opposition which we really need.”
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