If the architect of the very positive performance of Los Pumas Sevens in the last two seasons is Santiago Gómez Cora, his bricklayer has been assistant coach Leonardo Gravano.

Every time the camera captures the former series record try-scorer during a match, one step behind will be Gravano, who played for Argentina sevens for four seasons right before the birth of the circuit in December 1999 and wore the Pumas test jersey in the 1997 and 1998 Sudamericano Championships as a skilled full-back.

An unavoidable presence with the sevens team for almost 15 years, he began working with the Union Argentina de Rugby (UAR) teams in 2009, first as a regional selector.

Gravano has been a coach since he was 14; first with children and as he moved into senior rugby, he coached age-grade teams. He only retired as a player at 38 with his club Los Tarcos.

While still playing, “I was invited to coach my province, Tucumán sevens,” he recalls as Argentina make their way to Vancouver to defend the two titles obtained in 2022 and 2023. They will then travel down to Los Angeles, another city full of good memories.

“The UAR started a system of regional selectors in 2009 and that year I took a national beach rugby team to Montevideo and the following year, coached Argentina in a sevens tournament in Kenya, Gastón Revol's first time with the team.”

Revol has gone on to become the first player to reach 100 tournaments in HSBC SVNS.

Gravano was already in the sevens system when Gómez Cora was appointed coach of the national team. Between them, they have not missed a single tournament on the circuit since they joined in December 2013.

Father of a scrum-half with Los Tarcos’ seniors, and two daughters with his partner of 33 years Lizzy, he spends about 250 days away from home.

“The work is very demanding, it is absorbing,” says someone who has three current passports, two with no more space for stamps.

Pumas pride

Pride in the shape of Los Pumas Sevens' comes as the result of a vision, planning, commitment and total unity: players, coaching staff, national union and families. Before each trip, the team is seen off with a traditional barbecue to which wives and girlfriends come. Lizzy has often travelled from Tucumán to be there.

Argentina lead the men's SVNS standings, with three finals and two titles this season, having finished in second place last year on the back of six appearances in tournament showpiece matches and three gold medals.

Champions in the two previous editions in the beautiful Vancouver, Argentina are playing at a superlative level.

“It brings us great satisfaction,” says Gravano. “It took a long time for this to happen. We still have guys from the beginning – Germán Schulz, Santi Álvarez, Gastón Revol – when going through to the quarter-finals was an achievement.

“We went to each tournament with the hope that, if things worked out, we might reach a final.”

The Olympics changed everything. “We had a larger budget, went looking for very specific types of players for sevens, Santi changed the methodology, we developed a stable squad, a line of work.”

Although Los Pumas Sevens have only used 15 players in three tournaments, with Gómez Cora they're already working towards the future, constantly seeing new players and adding them to the team’s preparation.

“We work together on everything. Santi is very open, we analyse the characteristics of each player, with an open mind for looking outside of the system,” Gravano says.

“We look for size, skill, a good head.”

This symbiotic relationship created by 11 years and almost 100 international tournaments together comes with a division of roles between the two coaches.

“During a match, we try to have three tall players, one fast player, and defenders on the field. In sevens, a mistake costs you the game,” Gravano explains.

“So, whilst he focuses on the game at hand, I analyse the options and tell him.”

For Gómez Cora, “Leo is very clinical in analysing rivals, cuts, with technology, teaching skills. He is a bouncing board to talk about rugby, clear up doubts, unify criteria.

“We have a very positive synergy. The good thing is that we anticipate what each one thinks; we understand each other with a look.

“We work many hours so that when we speak to the players it is clear and concise. He is an important part of this team.”


The reasons for the current Argentine team’s success, according to Gravano, is the harmony that the players have forged in the last year.

“It continues to surprise us,” he says, recalling that “when we arrived in Perth after 50 hours of travel, the first training was of a standard that we couldn't believe. The next day, the same...everything they did came off. It was the same with our preparation ahead of travelling to Vancouver.

“They are winning because of the boys' focus. They are a very homogeneous group, with healthy competition, having fun but very challenging for the team.

“It is very nice to see how they come together on the field, with their minds set on winning everything. The goal comes from them: it is to win everything.

“They are not confident, they have trust in what they do and that is how they train, with everything.”

This creates difficulties for the coaching staff. “It's hard to come up with something they're not doing well. For example, Spain brought us to our knees in the last two games, so we worked on it.”

Juan Martin Galarraga joining the staff as a strength and conditioning coach also elevated the team. “Juan improved their physical context. As a former player, he creates a very good context for us about what we want to train. He brings our needs to physical work.”

From being an inconsistent team that could not finish tournaments, to one that has reached nine finals in the last 14 events, the change in perception of them is notable.

“We notice in the way other teams treat us: their attack and defence, how they try to ruin our options. They analyse us like never before. They seek to cancel us out,” Gravano adds.

“We have noted things about our game that we now see in other teams. It is the best form of respect.”

Gravano enjoys rugby and tournaments and avoids sightseeing when travelling “unless there is a team trip; if not I stay in the hotel,” says someone who chooses Dubai and Hong Kong as his favourite tournaments.

Finally, Gravano speaks of Gómez Cora with affection and respect. “He’s always had the greatness or delicacy of being open, listening to me, accepting what I had to offer," he continues.

“He has very good group management style and the ability to generate context to develop what we want to do.

“It's not easy to talk to the same group six times a weekend, and in training every day, generating positive contexts, setting up scenarios for players that are ready – it is easy to develop technical things when they are willing and hungry.”