Creevy: A good conversion?
The appointment of Agustín Creevy as Argentinean captain for the Rugby Championship caught many by surprise.
However, the 29-year-old, who made his international debut aged 20 against Japan in 2005, has been earmarked since a young age as a future star.
It was former Puma coach Santiago Phelan who was behind his move from flank to hooker some years ago, after he suffered from a series of shoulder injuries.
He only has two Test starts with Argentina and only one as a hooker, which made his appointment all the more surprising.
Creevy, when asked about his appointment late last month, described it as an "immense joy" and admitted he did not expect it.
"There are many high quality players in this squad," he said, adding: "It is with honour that I accepted the appointment, and I hope that I will rise to the occasion without letting the players and the staff down."
Those words, as cliched as they sound, were the first to be uttered by a man that surprised many – certainly outside Argentina – when he made the cut, even though there were some rumours about the appointment.
Creevy started his career in the San Luis club, in La Plata, Buenos Aires. He made his Argentina debut aged 20 against Japan in 2005, playing flank, and two years later he signed his first professional contract with French Top 14 side Biarritz.
However he played very little in his first season in Biarritz and had fallen out of international selection contention soon after his debut for Argentina. In his second season at Biarritz he played just 20 minutes – mostly as a result of a serious shoulder injury.
Creevy was the one of the first to take up a spot at the new High Performance Centre set up by the Argentinean Union (UAR) and there he received the advice by the then Puma coach, Phelan, that it would be best for his career to move to the front row.
Despite initially struggling with the conversion, the former flank took up the challenge with gusto and learned his new trade by playing in the shadow of a veritable encyclopedia of the dark art of being a hooker, Mario Ledesma.
Ledesma, now coaching at Montpellier alongside Fabien Galthié, further aided his progress with the help of Mauro Reggiardo.
Remarkably, within months Creevy was selected to play for the Argentina Jaguars, in May 2009 – on a tour of Namibia, and was retained for the 2009 Churchill Cup.
He was then selected for the senior Argentina side for the 2009 November Tests and replaced Alberto Vernet Basualdo as the Pumas understudy to Mario Ledesma, all in less than a year of playing hooker.
His first Test start as a hooker was against Scotland in November 2009, at Murrayfield. On that day Argentina won 9-6.
After cementing his status as Argentina's second-choice at hooker throughout 2010, Creevy was signed by Clermont as a medical joker for the injured Willie Wepener in October 2010 – on the recommendation of Mario Ledesma. However, he only played two minutes during his three-month stay at Clermont, and returned to the Pampas XV in 2011.
After the Pampas XV's undefeated campaign in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa he was signed by his third Top 14 side, Montpellier.
Creevy captained Argentina for the Pumas' second warm up match ahead of the World Cup, against the French Barbarians. However, it didn't go well for him, as Argentina struggled massively in the line-outs and lost 18-21. He also captained the Pumas against Worcester.
Creevy was selected in the Argentinean for the 2011 World Cup and played in all matches off the bench – as a replacement for Ledesma.
The departure from the Test arena by Ledesma, post-World Cup, left the No.2 jersey in the hands of Creevy.
Argentina was preparing for their first Rugby Championship in 2012, but a rib fracture, a week before their debut in South Africa, opened the door for Eusebio Guiñazú.
Creevy, who had now moved to Montpellier, would have to wait.
Guiñazú surprised with his good form and made the position his own.
Creevy, as was the case when Ledesma was the first-choice, waited for his chance and played off the bench. His only test at hooker was in 2013, against the Wallabies in Perth.
However, with Guiñazú not in the mix for the Rugby Championship this year, Creevy was thrust once again into the frontline and as an added bonus handed the captaincy.
It is difficult to explain the appointment of Creevy as captain over other more experienced players – like Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
It was felt that his more positive disposition and humorous nature gave him the edge, hoping that it will bring a turnaround in the attitude and approach of the Pumas.
We wait and see.
By Christian Gómez Csher, Rugby Fun