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Pichot pushes Pumas cause
The Argentina captain says the IRB need to help develop the smaller rugby nations.
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2007 06:26 GMT

An emotional Agustin Pichot is likely to play his final match for Argentina on Friday [GALLO/GETTY]

Agustin Pichot, veteran Argentina captain, has challenged world rugby chiefs to make some "tough decisions" regarding the Pumas' dream of playing in an annual major international championship such as the southern-hemisphere's Tri-Nations, or Europe's Six Nations.
The 33-year-old scrum-half also warned rugby administrators that plans to downsize the World Cup from 20 to 16 teams would mark the "end of rugby" as a truly global game.
Pichot led his side to their first World Cup semi-final as Argentina ended the monopoly on the last four spots usually enjoyed by southern hemisphere powers New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and established European nations France, Wales, England and Scotland.
 
Although Argentina lost 37-13 to South Africa, who will face defending champions England in the final at the Stade de France on Saturday, there was no denying the South Americans' progress.
 
Since their agonising one point defeat to Ireland at the 2003 World Cup in Australia, Argentina have climbed to fourth in the world rankings despite not playing in either of rugby union's two leading annual events - the Tri-Nations and Six Nations.
 

"Rugby at the moment has to make a very tough decision, one in a more romantic, non-profitable way."

Agustin Pichot,
Argentina captain

"The press conference in 2003, if you listen to it, which I have in the last month, was exactly the same," Pichot said after the semi-final loss to the Springboks.
 
"We lost against one of the best teams around, Ireland, by one point. In the following years we played just 20 matches in four years, and we have the most successful team in the history of Argentinean rugby.
 
"We beat, or we came close to beating, all the other (major) teams in the world."
 
Travel costs and distances have often been cited as reasons for Argentina's lack of Test matches, but Pichot urged officials to look beyond these issues and keep rugby's world image in mind.
 
"Rugby at the moment has to make a very tough decision, one in a more romantic, non-profitable way."
 
Second-tier teams improve
 
Argentina weren't the only underdog to put up a fight in France, with Fiji producing one of the most thrilling World Cup displays of all-time in defeating Wales 38-34 to reach the quarters, while the likes of emerging nations Georgia, pushed Ireland to the limit, and Tonga also shone during the first round.
 
Fiji bowed out to South Africa in the final eight, but exited the tournament at the same stage as Australia and New Zealand who, between them, have won the Webb Ellis Trophy three times.
 
"Reducing the number of countries from 20 to 16 would be the end of rugby," said Pichot.
 
"We want Argentina, Fiji and the rest of the countries to have a chance to be on the stage.
 
"Two of the greatest teams in the world (Australia and New Zealand) have gone home in the quarter-finals," the Argentinian added.
 
"It's time to look and say where do we want to go? Do we want to go for more open rugby or will there just be a six or 10 country tournament?
 
"You know my answer, I want rugby to be for everyone, not just a few."
Source:
Agencies
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