Argentina have many problems ahead of tough tour
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Indiscipline, poor conditioning, lack of composure, erratic goal-kicking and struggling set pieces are among the reasons why Argentina have lost eight of nine Tests this season.
That record is likely to get worse after a three-international visit to Europe in which they tackle England and Ireland, ranked second and fourth respectively in the world.
The South Americans face Italy in between the two massive challenges, a game which is likely to offer the only realistic chance of success.
Argentina confront England in London this Saturday, then Italy in Florence and Ireland in Dublin on successive weekends.
The "Pumas" were handicapped by six sin-binnings and one sending-off during a Rugby Championship in which they failed to gain any points for the first time since their 2012 debut.
Lock Tomas Lavanini, who has been included among the 32 tourists, was a repeat offender with two yellow cards and one red.
Three other forwards, prop Enrique Pieretto, lock Marcos Kremer and flank/No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon were yellow-carded.
The trio are also Europe-bound, adding to the concerns of coach Daniel Hourcade, who has often spoken of the need for cool heads in the heat of Test arenas.
The national team compete as the Jaguares in Super Rugby and there, too, yellow cards have been shown with alarming regularity to the volatile South Americans.
Argentina have a habit of fading as matches enter the final quarter with a 22-39 loss to world champions New Zealand in New Plymouth a prime example.
The visitors led 16-15 at half-time and by seven points after 50 minutes, when a sensational first triumph over the All Blacks seemed possible.
But the South Americans gradually surrendered control and conceded three converted tries to finish a well-beaten side.
"I think fatigue is what leads to our performances diminishing and our play becoming disorganised," Kremer admitted after the defeat in New Zealand.
"We must stick to our game plan until the final minute, which generally does not happen because about 15 minutes from time we start to lose concentration."
Poor composure is another concern for Hourcade, who guided his country to fourth at the 2015 World Cup, but has overseen 17 losses in 22 Tests since.
This problem has cost the "Pumas" several potential tries this year and also led to them conceding some soft ones.
Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez was the leading points scorer at the 2015 World Cup in England with 97 points, ahead of South African Handre Pollard (93) and Australian Bernard Foley (82).
But the playmaker has been erratic this year, missing some crucial shots at goal that he would normally convert with his eyes blindfolded.
When it comes to long-range attempts, giant wing Emiliano Boffelli has taken over this season and succeeded with several difficult shots.
Once famed for their scrumming, the Argentines no longer dominate opponents in this set piece and suffered some embarrassing back-pedalling recently.
They have just lost one of their most experienced props, 37-cap tighthead Ramiro Herrera, to French Top 14 outfit Stade Francais.
Argentina consider players based abroad only during the year of a World Cup, with the next edition to be hosted by Japan in 2019.
This rule also robs Hourcade of Racing 92 wing Juan Imhoff and Toulon loose forwards Facundo Isa and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.