Pichot boost for Puma Sevens in Hong Kong
Argentine Rugby Sevens is to receive a giant boost at the upcoming Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens with the inclusion of former Puma captain Agustin Pichot in the team's management staff.
Pichot will be Argentina Team Manager at the renowned event, which is the sixth leg in the IRB Sevens World Series and will be played at the famous Hong Kong Stadium on 26-28 March.
As well as fulfilling the vital Manager's role, Pichot will also be conducting a review for the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) on the High Performance structures required to compete at the highest level in Sevens, on the IRB's World Series. The work is part of a wider strategic focus on High Performance within the UAR.
"The goal of this trip is to be with the players, understand them, know how Rugby Sevens is nowadays from the inside so that we can then analyze the future of Sevens in Argentina. We are now looking towards Rio 2016, there is a real buzz around Sevens now that it is an Olympic sport," said Pichot, who is is a member of the UAR's High Performance Committee.
"Sevens has been very good for Argentine rugby as it has developed many, many of our players. It was crucial for our success in Rugby World Cup 2007.
"I want to offer the players my support, to be there for this group of players. I will be at their disposal as a Team Manager. It is very good for me to be back, although from a different side."
Fernández Lobbe: "He will lift the players"
Coach Nicolás Fernández Lobbe is also delighted to have Pichot on board. "It is great for us to have someone like Agustín as manager. He will certainly lift the players," he said.
"He is experienced enough to then go back and give his views at the UAR on the many avenues we could take in the Sevens programme. Having Agustín with us will certainly reinforce whatever is decided."
One of rugby's most recognisable faces, Pichot led his country to a best ever third-place finish at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, and was a member of the IRB's seven-strong bid team that successfully presented Rugby Sevens' case to the International Olympic Committee last October.
Best-known for his exploits in the 15-a-side game, Pichot did also play Sevens for Argentina - once in Hong Kong in 1996, at the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Mar del Plata and once on the World Series, also in Mar del Plata in 2002.
"I am not sure what I will see in Hong Kong. I haven't been back in 14 years and as incredible as it may sound, I am very nervous," Pichot admitted.
"I remember everything from my only previous trip to Hong Kong as a player in 1996. Those were exciting times as I was starting out in my international rugby career. Going to Hong Kong at that time was the maximum you could aspire to. Everything was new, another world.
"We had a great time. I still remember Kowloon, the architecture, the contrast between cultures, the Foster buildings, it was incredible. We had a great time.
"But Hong Kong represents a nice moment of my life and I am back to be part of international rugby once again," said Pichot.
Friends reunited: Rugby's IOC bid team
The Hong Kong tournament will also provide a fitting stage for a reunion between six of the seven members of the IRB's Olympic bid team in October 2009.
Pichot will be joined in Hong Kong by IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset and Chief Executive Mike Miller, Kenya captain Humphrey Kayange, Australia Sevens captain Cheryl Soon and Kazakhstan player and match official Anastassiya Khamova.
While Kayange, Pichot, Soon and Khamova will be involved in the men's and women's Sevens tournaments, Lapasset and Miller will be spectators at the Sevens. Of the seven-strong bid team, only Jonah Lomu will not be in Hong Kong.
Pichot: Sevens factfile
- Pichot played six times for Argentina Sevens: 1994 - Champions Chinese Taipei; 1995 - Champions Punta del Este; 1996 - Punta del Este, Hong Kong; 2001 - Rugby World Cup Sevens (captain); 2002 - Mar del Plata (captain)
- Holds the distiction of leading Los Pumas to the semi finals at both Sevens and 15s Rugby World Cups (Mar del Plata 2001 and France 2007)
- Pichot is leading the new rugby awakening as a member of the High Performance Committee at the Unión Argentina de Rugby.