Facundo Isa shock omission as Argentina name Rugby World Cup squad

France-based loose forward misses out on Ledesma's 31-man squad heading to Japan for September 20-November 2 global tournament

Argentina's Facundo Isa (R) runs with the ball during a Rugby Championship match between Argentina and South Africa in Salta, Argentina, on August 10, 2019. / AFP / Juan GASPARINI
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France-based loose forward Facundo Isa was a shock omission from the 31-man Argentina Rugby World Cup named Monday by coach Mario Ledesma in Buenos Aires.

Instead, outsider Rodrigo Bruno got the nod and is among 26 players from Super Rugby runners-up the Jaguares who will travel to Japan for the September 20-November 2 global tournament.

"I was convinced more by other players [than Isa]," Ledesma told reporters after naming his squad for Pool C matches against France, Tonga, section favourites England and the United States.

"And I wanted to give priority to those playing at home over those based abroad. Contrary to what sections of the media thought, Facundo was not a certain choice."

Two Argentina-based non-Jaguares were chosen, plus France-based fly-halves Nicolas Sanchez and Benjamin Urdapilleta and prop Juan Figallo from English club Saracens.

Jaguares flanker Pablo Matera will captain a national team that has won just eight of 41 internationals since finishing fourth at the last World Cup in England and Wales four years ago.

Argentina went down 24-18 to an experimental South Africa side in Pretoria last Saturday - their ninth straight defeat since beating Australia away last September.

Former Pumas hooker Ledesma was chosen for four consecutive World Cup tournaments between 1999 and 2011 and loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon equals that record after making the squad for Japan.

Argentina have played 37 World Cup matches, winning 19 and losing 18, with the best showing a third-place finish at the 2007 tournament hosted by France.

Their World Cup record against their pool opponents in Japan is mixed. They have won two of three clashes with France, beaten Tonga the only time they played and lost both meetings with England. They have never faced their final pool opponent, the United States, at the tournament.

Italy coach Conor O'Shea has identified an upset win over South Africa as a possible path out of a tough Pool B after naming his squad for Japan.

The Italians have been drawn with world champions New Zealand, two-time winners the Springboks, Namibia and Canada for the opening stage of the tournament.

With only two teams making it out of each pool and into the quarter-finals, the Italians must defy the odds to reach the knockout stage for the first time in nine World Cups.

O'Shea, though, said the improvement he had overseen since taking over in 2016 meant the Azzurri had a chance of making the last eight if they played at their very best.

"Compared to when I started my journey here, we now definitely have a better team, with more internal competition and much improved performances," the Irishman said.

"Recently, we have shown that we can play against the top teams when we play our best game.

"At the World Cup we absolutely must win against Namibia and Canada and then focus on the other two big challenges we have. I believe that against South Africa, with this team, we can create an opportunity on our day."

Italy beat South Africa 20-18 in Florence in O'Shea's first year in charge but have never got so much as a draw against New Zealand in 15 attempts.

A 13-try, 85-15 victory over Russia at San Benedetto del Tronto on Saturday should send the Italians off to Japan with a spring in their step.

O'Shea said choosing his 31-man squad, and informing the players that missed out, had been the toughest job he had faced in his rugby career.

No 8 Sergio Parisse will captain the squad at his fifth World Cup and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was also selected despite suffering a serious knee injury in the Six Nations earlier this year.

Parisse, Ghiraldini and utility forward Alessandro Zanni, who have all played more than 100 times for their country, will form an experienced core to a youthful squad.

"Leo, together with Parisse and Zanni, are playing the last matches in the Italy shirt of their extraordinary careers," O'Shea added.

"We want to make their dreams come true and we have the cards to be able to succeed."

Italy open their World Cup campaign against Namibia in Osaka on September 22.