LONDON, 20 Oct – Julian Montoya has one of the most unenviable jobs in the Argentina squad - as understudy for team captain and one of the world’s leading hookers Agustin Creevy, he has to start most matches on the replacements’ bench.
Even so, 21-year-old Montoya has already made quite an impression for someone so young, especially one involved in the dark arts of the front row, and his 14 caps have brought four tries.
Two of those came this Rugby World Cup against Tonga and Namibia (above), and while the latter match was his only start this campaign, he is happy to play a vital role off the bench.
“They (coaching staff) tell us to be a breath of fresh air for the players on the pitch,” he said. “Personally, I try to add to the team in whatever way I can.
“I love playing and try to make the most of the opportunities they give me. The head coach tells us to bring on fresh legs, to run a lot and keep the intensity up.”
Next up for Argentina are Australia in the semi-finals on Sunday, a team who have had their scrum rejuvenated by a cult Argentine figure, Mario Ledesma.
Ledesma was the Argentina hooker when the South Americans roared their way to the France 2007 semi-finals, but now ‘Super Mario’ is the Wallabies' forwards coach and has been passing on his vast knowledge to a pack once regarded as a soft touch.
“We still haven’t studied it in-depth, but we know them and that their scrum will be extremely tough because they’ve come a long way there,” Montoya said. “Australia wasn’t really a scrummaging team and now they’re very good at it.
“It will be very close, and for us it’s great if they scrummage a lot because it’ll tire them. I don’t know Ledesma, but I know he’s been very instrumental in improving their scrum.”
Montoya has now matched Ledesma’s achievement in reaching a World Cup semi-final, but the next challenge is to set a new high by reaching their first final. To do that they will have to find a way past a team who have reached three finals, winning in 1991 and 1999 and losing in 2003.
Several players from 2007 remain in the Argentina squad to help guide the new younger generation, though Creevy was not among that group and there is a chance he may miss the semi-final through injury, meaning a huge responsibility for Montoya.
“We talk a lot about enjoying this experience,” he said. “Of course there’s pressure, but the senior players, like (Juan Martin) Fernandez Lobbe or (Horacio) Agulla, tell us to enjoy what’s happening.
“I hope ‘Agus’ (Creevy) will be able to start because he’s an excellent player, and if I’m selected I’ll certainly do my best.”