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Pichot still fighting the TriNations fight

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Former Pumas captain Augustin Pichot will meet with SANZAR bosses on Tuesday in Sydney where he will finally try and pin down South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union (SANZAR) at a specially convened meeting about how and when the Pumas proposed entry into the TriNations will be enacted.

Pichot is also scheduled to fly to Lausanne where he is one of those the IRB have asked to head up the presentation of their formal bid to the Executive Council of the IOC to have Rugby  Sevens included in the 2016 Games.

In between those two meetings he will fly back to Argentina to watch his former team take on England in Salta and to get in time for the match he plans to hire a private plane.

“Sometimes I worry I am a bit of a nuisance but I don’t care, I keep going because I still fear very much for Pumas rugby and somebody has to fight our cause. ” he told the Telegraph in an interview.

“The Olympic bid is very important for rugby as a world game but particularly important for countries like Argentina who could not only be very competitive if we target resources at it but could also qualify for Olympic funding. This has always been the basis of the IRB and I support their approach with all my heart. It is the right way.

“As for the TriNations, the Pumas just have to get more international rugby, we have just five international matches in 2009 which is as bad as ever. In fact, it is worse than most years in the past. There is this idea around that great strides have somehow been taken since the 2007 World Cup but this simply isn’t true. Something really has to happen now.” he stated.

“Important people have been talking a good game about supporting the Pumas but they don’t seem to ever deliver. In Europe everybody – fans, union officials and players – used to say to my face how they would love to see the Pumas in the Six Nations and that would be the ideal solution.

“Of course it is the obvious solution, we know that. We are second or third generation Europeans, we are Spanish speaking, 90 per cent of our squad are based in Europe and many have made their homes there.

“But when it came to it last year and the IRB held a summit meeting on the subject not one of the SixNations committees supported us in our request. It was a very disappointing moment and hit the Pumas hard.

“We thought people supported us.” says Pichot.

“It would be a big step and yes, it would be present a challenge logistically, but it was a challenge when Italy were recruited at the start of the decade.

“It was ‘decided’ by people that the best route for us is to join the TriNations, but the SANZAR countries want to put stipulations on how, when we might be permitted to enter and at what level our domestic rugby must have achieved.

“It seems to me the issue is being fudged. I appreciate there are commercial considerations – money is the bottom line and everybody is looking after themselves at the moment – but really it is very simple. Do SANZAR want Argentina on board? And if so, what needs to be done to get them up and running in the tournament by 2011?” he questioned.

“This last year I have been shuttling around on behalf of Argentina talking to everybody and usually I will be there on my own, me and my computer. Lined up across the room will be a small team of lawyers and financial men. It can be intimidating but I’ve known worse on the field. I just try my best to make the case.

“In the meantime – until somebody finally allows the Pumas to join the party which I fear could still be some time away – we must somehow attract more quality teams to Argentina.

“When I was with Mike Milar last week I suggested that the Lions tour and actually its almost a good idea although I know it will ever happen. I think perhaps the Lions fans would love it to happen though. They would have the best touring experience of their lives.

“My best idea at the moment is the Tango Cup – a quadrangular tournament every year in Argentina with hopefully two of the SixNations coming down plus one other invited nation.

“And then, every four years when the Lions are on tour, I would hope the other two SANZAR countries that are not involved would visit us in Argentina to give us a massive profile event every four years, halfway between World Cup.

“An event the world would sit up and take notice of. We can hope but we need something to happen very badly and very quickly.”

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