Four years ago, Bautista Delguy had to ask permission to miss classes in his final year at school to enable him to travel with Argentina's U18 team and make his rugby sevens debut at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in 2014.

Today, he represents the young blood of a rejuvenated Los Pumas team that, on Saturday, will be bidding for their first-ever win against the All Blacks at Velez Sarsfield Stadium in his home city of Buenos Aires.

However, the 21-year-old, who has featured in all seven of Argentina's tests since making his debut against Wales in June, has not forgotten how big a deal the Youth Olympic Games were to his development as a player and person.

“I have it in my room,” says the young Argentine winger of his silver medal. “I went to Nanjing when I was 17 and missed the end-of-school trip with my lifelong friends, but it was well worth it as it was my introduction to high performance.”

Unforgettable experience

It was, clearly, a trip into the unknown for the side captained by Lautaro Bazán Vélez, a recent Rugby World Cup Sevens player and a key member of Santiago Gómez Cora’s national sevens squad.

“It was crazy, going to an Olympic Games with all that it entails; in China, so far away and in a new squad. It was a great experience, unforgettable,” Delguy recalls.

As the rugby sevens competition started the day after the opening ceremony, Argentina’s youngsters decided to skip the athletes' parade and remain focused on the task in hand.

“It was a very tough tournament, with hard teams such as Fiji and France, but we had a good performance in the round-robin phase.”

Argentina advanced to the final unbeaten and their gold medal prospects looked promising as they raced into a 12-0 lead against France. The French responded with a flurry of tries but Delguy’s try five minutes from time brought Argentina back to within two points with five minutes to go.

France, though, found yet another gear and three converted tries gave them a convincing 45-22 win.

Painful memory

“We fell away in the second half, which was extremely disappointing because we had already beaten them in the pool stages. We thought we were already the champions and ended up crying. It was a good lesson.

“I’ve never watched the final back as the memories are too painful,”

While the result hurt, Delguy says the Youth Olympic Games was an enriching experience for him and his team-mates.

“We stayed for almost two more weeks in Nanjing and got to see other sports and interact with other sportsmen and women from other countries," he says.

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Sage advice

As someone who has experienced the Youth Olympic Games for himself, Delguy has some words of advice for the current Argentina team who will hope to go one better than his class of 2014 did.

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“I haven’t met the players, although I know there are a couple that played in the World Rugby U20 Championship this year. My advice to them would be to have fun and embrace the spirit of the Games; it is a great experience. They have the responsibility of representing the country, but they have to enjoy themselves.”

With a month-long gap between the conclusion of The Rugby Championship and the start of the November internationals, Delguy is hoping to catch some of the action in person.

“We have a very active WhatsApp group with the guys from Nanjing, and we are organising a trip to go to La Boya and support the team.”

Positive thinking

With regards to the way his career has evolved, the fleet-footed winger is happy.

“I am enjoying and making the most of this moment and learning heaps along the way. Hopefully, things can evolve but what is important is to enjoy your rugby and be competitive.

“As a team, even against the All Blacks, we always believe we can win. That confidence is what the coaching staff instills in us.

“We believe in how we want to play and what we want to achieve.”

After an impressive first season at test level, Delguy appears to be a shoe-in for a place in Los Pumas’ squad for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. He isn't prepared to think that far ahead, though.  

“I am trying to enjoy what is ahead of me today, focusing on the Rugby Championship. I want to live in the moment.”