Preview: Wales v Argentina
Thu, 14 Nov 2013 18:12
Wales will be wary of the threat the Pumas pose
Wales won’t be caught off guard when they face the Pumas at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Argentina ambushed the Welsh in last year’s corresponding clash, claiming a surprise 26-12 win. The Welsh camp will deny it, but complacency played a major role in that defeat.
Just like 12 months ago, Wales are the Six Nations champions and, just like 12 months ago, the Pumas are coming off a winless Rugby Championship campaign.
This time around, however, Wales will be wary of the threat the Pumas pose. The Argentine last weekend entered a new era under Daniel Hourcade with a 12-31 loss to England which highlighted the flaws of a team caught in a transitional phase.
A much-improved second-half effort, after trailing 6-24 at half-time, hinted at the character of the Pumas and would have done the side the world of good psychologically.
They will fancy their chances of pulling off another upset against an injury-ravaged Welsh side without the likes of Jonathan Davies, Dan Lydiate and Adam Jones.
Wales all too familiarly came up short against a top three Southern Hemisphere side last weekend and will be limping into Saturday’s game following their bruising 15-24 loss to the Springboks.
Much like their opponents this weekend, Wales showed character to claw back to within two points after being down 6-17 after 20 minutes. They plugged the holes in their defence but continued to misfire on attack, which has been the focus in training this week.
"We created a few opportunities which we didn't finish off and we've been working with the players to make sure when we make a break, out support lines are better than what they were against South Africa," said coach Warren Gatland.
"We're encouraging the players to play what's in front of them. We give them the structure but that doesn't mean we're inhibiting them in any way. We want the players to express themselves and the hit out last week will do us good.”
Gatland said they are bracing themselves for a tough set-piece battle against the Pumas.
"We expect Argentina will put us under pressure with a lot of driven line-outs and put a reasonable amount of ball in the air. We've got to cope with that and try to negate their line-out threat," he said.
Key to the scrum contest will be battle-hardened veteran Gethin Jenkins, who will play in his 100th Test. According to Gatland, the 32-year-old is much more than a set-piece soldier.
"Gethin had a phenomenal game last week in terms of workrate," said Gatland.
"He's a sensational player in terms of the way he works. He chases everything and in his own way, he's a leader on the park. His body seems to be holding together okay, he's dropped four or five kilograms and he's looking really fit at the moment.”
The New Zealand-born mentor added the team will be motivated to mark Jenkins’ milestone with a win.
"It's a fantastic milestone for someone who has been a great servant to Welsh rugby. I just hope we can give a performance which reflects that contribution."
Players to watch:
For Wales: Centurion Gethin Jenkins will be the man of the hour. Debutant Cory Allen will also be in the spotlight and will have the considerable boots of Jonathan Davies to fill. Dan Bigger will be eager to make a statement in the No.10 jersey, while George North will ask questions on attack. In the pack, Richard Hibbard will be asked to bring the same physicality he showcased against South Africa, skipper Sam Warburton will contest the breakdown despite wearing the No.6 jersey and Toby Faletau will have to provide go-forward with his ball-carrying.
For Argentina: Juan Manuel Leguizamón will have to lead from the front in the continuous injury-enforced absence of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. Santiago Cordero has an opportunity to impress in his first Test start and will have to contain the big George North, Joaquín Tuculet will be tested under the high ball and the experienced Marcelo Bosch will be the defensive organiser in the back division. Manuel Carizza comes into the second row to add some grunt in the tight loose and Eusebio Guiñazú’s line-out throwing will need to be on point.
Head to head: Like in most matches involving the Pumas, the battle at scrum time will be crucial and in this regard, Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard and Rhodri Jones will have to front up against Marcos Ayerza, Eusebio Guiñazú and Maximiliano Bustos. Both teams have inexperienced tightheads, so don’t be surprised if the set-piece produces a number of penalties. The other key clash also relates to the set pieces and will see two lineout kingpins attempt to outwit one another as Alun Wyn Jones goes up against Patricio Albacete.
2012: Argentina won 26-12, Cardiff
2011: Wales won 28-13, Cardiff
2009: Wales won 33-16, Cardiff
2007: Wales won 27-20, Cardiff
2006: Argentina won 45-27, Buenos Aires
2006: Argentina won 27-25, Patagonia
Prediction: Wales will still be feeling the effects of their physical battle against the Springboks last weekend but they will be up for this one. The abrasive and technically astute Pumas pack will provide problems for the hosts, but Wales have more weapons across the park and a sharpshooter in Leigh Halfpenny. With last year’s disappointment still fresh in their memory and Gethin Jenkins bringing up his ton, Wales will tame the Pumas by 10 points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Ryan Jones, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Ashley Beck.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (captain), 7 Julio Farias Cabello, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Matías Díaz, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Gabriel Ascárate, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Date: Saturday, November 16
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 11.30, Saturday, November 16 Arg time)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy but no rain. High of 11°C and low of 3°C. Winds from the West at 5 to 15 km/h.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
By Quintin van Jaarsveld
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