Internal tensions forced Phelan out
Outgoing Argentina coach Santiago Phelan has revealed that divisions within the Pumas squad were responsible for his surprise decision to resign on Monday.
Phelan had been at the helm of les Pumas for almost six years and although he had already indicated that he would step down when his contract expired in December, his sudden resignation - less than three weeks before Argentina's clash with England at Twickenham - came as a shock to many.
The three members of Phelan's technical staff also submitted their resignations.
For several months, divisions within the Pumas camp have become apparent with Phelan's selection and choice of captain a bone of contention. According to the Argentine press, several cliques have formed around captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, on the one hand, and lock Patricio Albacete on the other hand, and another of the squad's younger players.
Phelan struck a bitter and disappointed tone as he addressed the media on Tuesday. He mentioned no names, but made it clear that the behaviour of certain squad members was at odds with his personal values and those of rugby.
"My decision is based on the fact that the certain parts of the life of the team behind-the-scenes were made public. These statements involved members of staff, caused a bad atmosphere and reflect a lack of respect for the whole team," said Phelan at a press conference at the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) headquarters.
"What happened is not the best way to handle a rugby team where principles and values are different. It underlined the fact that I have no control over these situations, so my decision is to step aside.
"It was a personal decision. After the Rugby Championship when these internal experiences were leaked to the press, passing responsibility for events that occurred, I took the decision to leave office.
"I informed the UAR of my perspective, I talked to the staff and made a decision to communicate it to the players, being up front and not disrespecting anyone. Unfortunately I could not tell all the players in person.
"I have clear principles instilled in me and so I decided not to be involved in the future. My feeling is one of pain, after many years of work and effort. I am convinced that I am being true to my principles.
"I am grateful for having had this experience with all the support we had from the UAR, although at times we did not produce the best results or performances.
"We knew this was a process to grow as a team. We have all worked together to develop the players in the best possible way. I lived through good times and I thank my family and friends and all the staff and players.
"I'm leaving with the pain of not finishing this process in the best way."