Preview: Wales v Argentina

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:53

RANKINGS RACE: Wales and Argentina insist there is more than just pride at stake when they meet in Cardiff on Saturday, with important world rankings points up for grabs.

Both sides are desperate to re-establish themselves among the top echelons of the Test game, having failed to make a major impression in the latter half of 2016.

Argentina ended a run of four successive defeats with a comfortable 54-20 win over Japan in Tokyo last week.

In the process, the Pumas overtook Wales in World Rugby's global standings, moving up to sixth place from ninth position.

Meanwhile, Wales continued their slide since finishing second in the Six Nations as their losing run worsened with a thumping defeat by Australia last week their fifth loss in a row.

Wales know the importance of being among the world's top eight teams after finding themselves ninth in the rankings at the end of 2013, which led to them being drawn in the same World Cup pool as hosts England and Australia.

They escaped the group after beating England but losing to Australia only to be knocked out in the quarter-finals by South Africa.

"World rankings is a big motivation," said Wales flank Sam Warburton.

"We fell out of the top eight back in 2013, just before the pool draw for the World Cup, and we ended up in a really tough pool, so we want to make sure that doesn't happen again.

"Ideally we would be chasing a place in the top four but I don't know how realistic that is after last week. But we certainly want to finish as high as possible ahead of the draw [for Japan 2019]

First though, Wales must recover from last week's distressing 32-8 defeat by the Wallabies where, in front of their own fans at Cardiff's Principality Stadium, they were simply outclassed.

British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts was the highest profile casualty of six changes made by interim Wales coach Rob Howley.

Scott Williams, a try-scorer last week, is preferred as midfield partner to Jonathan Davies who is one of three Lions back in the side.

Veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones plays for the first time since the death of his father, while Warburton came through his return to match fitness with club side Cardiff Blues last week.

Warburton is back in the team without the captaincy or in his usual position.

Justin Tipuric remains at openside while Gethin Jenkins retains the captaincy on a day when he will become the most-capped prop in world rugby, playing his 133rd Test for Wales and the Lions.

"It's something I will acknowledge after Saturday but this week is not about me, it's about the team delivering a performance we can be proud of because all the players are hurting after last week," said the 35-year-old Jenkins.  

Argentina have made three changes from their victory over Japan, with centre Juan Martin Hernández, wing Ramiro Moyano and back-row Pablo Matera replacing Jeronimo de la Fuente, Santiago Cordero and Tomas Lezana respectively.

Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade fears a Welsh backlash having been in charge for the last meeting between the teams when Argentina were beaten 40-6 in Cardiff three years ago.

"We are really motivated to face a hard team that have a lot of pressure after a bad game last week," he said.

"It's not the best time to play them. We would prefer to face a Welsh team in a better moment, not after a thrashing.

"It was a tough day last time we played them. After that tour, we started as a new team and we've seen a huge development in the players since then."

Recent results:
2013: Wales won 40-6, Cardiff
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
2004: Wales won 35-20, Buenos Aires
2004: Argentina won 50-44, Tucuman
2001: Argentina won 30-16, Cardiff

Prediction: Argentina come into the game with momentum, playing the better rugby - certainly an entertaining brand. However, Wales will not be as underdone this week as they were last week. On form you must think the Pumas can do it and that is why we say Argentina by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James King, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Jamie Roberts.

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Santiago Cordero.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17.30 (14.30 ART; 17.30 GMT)
Expected weather: If the roof is closed, the weather won't matter. But for the record, it will be dull and damp with some rain.  High of 13°C and a low of 7°C
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Shaun Davey (England)

Agence France-Presse