Three weeks after guiding his nation to one of the biggest upsets in Test history, the Tri Nations has been rocked by the announcement that Pablo Matera has been sacked as captain, Argentina Rugby Union announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Matera, as well as two other senior players Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, look also set to miss the Tri Nations finale against the Wallabies on Saturday at Bankwest Stadium for xenophobic comments made on Twitter in 2011 and 2013.
"The Argentine Rugby Union strongly repudiates the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Los Pumas team on social networks and meeting urgently, the Board of Directors resolves: First, revoke Pablo Matera's captaincy and request the staff to propose a new captain to the Board of Directors," a Argentina Rugby Union statement read.
"Second, suspend Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from the national team until their disciplinary situation is defined.
En segundo lugar, suspender a Pablo Matera, a Guido Petti y a Santiago Socino del seleccionado nacional hasta tanto se defina su situación disciplinaria.— Unión Argentina de Rugby (@unionargentina) December 1, 2020
Matera has since taken the Tweet down and suspended his account.
He did, however, issue an apology on his Instagram account.
"I had a tougher time. I am very ashamed. Apologies to all those who were offended by the atrocities I wrote," he said.
"At that moment I did not imagine who I was going to become. Today I have to take charge of what I said 9 years ago.
"I'm also sorry to my team and my family for the moment they are going through my actions and thanks to the people who love me for their support."
It was only three weeks ago that Matera led the Pumas to their maiden win over the All Blacks - a 25-15 victory at Bankwest Stadium.
The victory defied the odds given the Argentinian team and the majority of their squad had not played a professional match since mid-March, when COVID-19 forced the suspension of Super Rugby.
Matera then led the Pumas to a draw against the Wallabies in Newcastle late last month.
He won admiration and went viral on the internet for giving his jersey away to a young Pumas fan, who was seen crying after meeting his "hero".
This right here is why we love this sport. https://t.co/FoXqHHOBn6— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 21, 2020
The Wallabies were told by reporters of the breaking news at their regular press conference on Tuesday.
Brumbies captain and Wallabies regular Allan Alaalatoa said the absence of Matera would be felt, but added that the playing group would look to do their country proud despite the controversy.
"That's the first that we've heard of it," Alaalatoa said.
"Pablo being their captain it's going to be a huge loss. I'm unsure whether he's just lost his captaincy or whether he's not going to play, but I'm sure all three of those boys will play a vital role in their preparation. Probably their squad will look to use it as more of a motivation to do those boys proud. That's the first time we've heard about it but thinking about it now I'm sure those boys will try to do their country proud."
More to come.
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