Thousands turn out to see Pichot bow out

ARGENTINA'S World Cup captain Agustin Pichot brought the curtain down on his playing career in emotional style on Saturday at CASI, the club where he started as a youngster.

Pichot, who led the Pumas to a remarkable third place at the 2007 World Cup in France, played the last of his 72 Tests in the 34-10 bronze-medal triumph over the hosts in Paris.

The former Richmond and Bristol scrum-half spent the post-World Cup season with French second-tier club Racing Metro 92 before being coaxed out of retirement by Stade Francais, the club he first joined in 2003 and with whom he won the title in 2004 and 2007.

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However, the 34-year-old was injured in April and decided to finally call it a day.

"This celebration was for my friends not for me," a tearful Pichot said after being carried off the CASI pitch on the shoulders of the players, and surrounded by fans who poured on to the field.

"There were about 80 friends here playing for the fun of it. I'll never forget it."

Pichot was the only man to spend the full hour and a quarter on the pitch in an informal game of three "halves" watched by about 3,000 people and involving former CASI team-mates and rivals, and past and present Pumas.

All the players, among them Argentina fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, wore No 9 nine on their backs.

Felipe Contepomi, Pichot's successor as captain who is recovering from injury, watched from the bench.

Pichot's family has been heavily involved with CASI for three generations. His brother Enrique played on Saturday while his uncle Horacio was referee.

Also present were 2007 national coach Marcelo Loffreda and New Zealander Alex Wyllie, who steered Argentina to their first quarter-final appearance at the 1999 World Cup.