Los Pumas captain Pablo Matera knows very well what Argentina's best young players are going through in the World Rugby U20 Championship, given that he twice played in this proven staging post in the player development pathway.
One of 67 players to have graduated to Los Pumas via the World Rugby U20 Championship, the 25-year-old flanker played in the 2012 and 2013 tournaments, in South Africa where the team finished fourth and in Italy the following year when they finished sixth.
“I have the best of memories of my days with Los Pumitas,” admitted Matera, who was appointed Argentina captain last November and is counting down to his second Rugby World Cup in Japan latter this year.
“I made friends for life. It was an incredible experience that opened a door for me to be able to make a living from my passion.”
Matera won his first two caps in the South American Championship on the eve of the U20 Championship in 2013, in which he scored three tries and was earmarked as having a big future in the game.
“The U20 Championship was the closest thing to being in a professional environment at an important age. Teams are very competitive and you play against players that have had very good preparation,” he said.
“It is a very demanding competition and the pride players have is huge as they are representing everyone in the country.”
Although Matera did not get to experience an U20 Championship on home soil, 22 of his tests have been in Argentina and he knows how big an advantage that can be.
“I’d tell the boys to fully enjoy it because it is very special, they should embrace the chance of playing for their country and putting the jersey on and play every game as if it's their last.
"Playing at home is very moving, knowing the whole country and their friends and family will be there to support them.”
While Matera's Super Rugby commitments are likely to prevent him from attending the U20 Championship in person, he has been keeping a close eye on their progress and, despite them losing their opening game 30-25 to Wales, he expects them to do well.
“I’ve been following them and Jaguares had a warm-up game against them. They are very well prepared, with a very professional coaching staff and they will play at home. They have everything on their side to have a great tournament.”