Preview: Australia v Argentina

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 09:11
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RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FOUR: Australia confront an improved Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

And the Wallabies will look to keep the winning habit after finally ending a six-match losing streak.

Michael Cheika's Australians brought up their first win of the year after overcoming South Africa 23-17 last week, and they will be chasing further improvement against the Pumas.

But Argentina, who have shown the benefits of the Jaguares' first season in Super Rugby, will be no pushovers in Perth.

The Pumas conquered South Africa 26-24 last month in Salta - their first home win over the Springboks, after going down by just a converted try the previous week.

Last week, Argentina also gave New Zealand problems before the All Blacks powered away in the final half-hour for a 57-22 victory.

"I know the Pumas very well, I know their footy. They can play," Cheika said.

"They're going to test us, they can play a lot more offloading and open play, [with] balls back inside.

"They'll challenge our defence and we'll need to take a step up, no doubt."

Wallabies scrum coach and 84-capped Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma said the Pumas now played a different brand of rugby compared to his playing days.

"When I played we didn't throw the ball around a lot and this team does it a lot. So, the DNA's changed a little bit, they're focusing on other skills," Ledesma said.

He said Argentina's off-loading game against the All Blacks epitomised the improvements they have made.

"Before, they were only playing once every five years against Australia, once every seven years against the All Blacks so it was difficult to feel that you can beat them," he said.

"They're playing week in, week out against them, then they play Rugby Championship."

Cheika named his sixth different lock combination of the year as he recalled line-out general Rob Simmons in place of Kane Douglas.

Simmons, the only change to the starting side from last week's much-needed win over South Africa, will partner Adam Coleman in the line-outs.

"I'm not looking for the right mix right now," Cheika said. "Everyone's always crying about us having no depth, well we're taking the measure to create depth [in the second row]."

Meanwhile, Argentina made four changes to the side that lost to the All Blacks with ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli earning his first start since last year's World Cup.

Juan Manuel Leguizamon returns at blindside flank, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias replaces injured centre Juan Martin Hernández and Javier Ortega Desio comes in for injured lock Guido Petti.

The Pumas have only won once in 12 Tests in Australia, but that was back in 1983. They have had three narrow defeats in the Rugby Championship away to the Wallabies.

Players to watch:

For Australia: You must always watch Israel Folau, especially if you are the opposition. For his aerial skills are a thing of beauty. The Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper combination will also be in the spotlight again. Then there is David Pocock and Michael Hooper, or Pooper, as some Aussies are beginning to refer to the breakdown twins.

For Argentina: You start with one of the most impressive players this year, No.8 Facundo Isa - one of those already short-listed for Player of the Year. Joaquin Tuculet is exciting to watch, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias and Nicolas Sanchez remain the key playmakers. However, their best chance is if their tight forwards dominate - Matias Alemanno, Javier Ortega Desio, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Head to head: The most obvious is in the inside backs channels - Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper and Will Genia (Australia) against Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Nicolas Sanchez and Tomas Cubelli (Argentina). That is where the key decisions will be made. But for pure excitement, you will look at Israel Folau (Australia) against Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina), two men who can catch and run with great determination. Of course, there is the battle between the tight forwards - Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore and Scott Sio (Australia) versus Matias Alemanno, Javier Ortega Desio, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Argentina).

Recent results:
2015: Australia won 29-15, London (World Cup semifinal)
2015: Australia won 34-9, Mendoza
2014: Argentina won 21-17, Mendoza
2014: Australia won 32-25, Gold Coast
2013: Australia won 54-17, Rosario
2013: Australia won 14-13, Perth
2012: Australia won 25-19, Rosario
2012: Australia won 23-19, Gold Coast
2003: Australia won 24-8, Sydney (World Cup pool match)
2002: Australia won 17-6, Buenos Aires

Statistical review: The Wallabies have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Pumas, including victories the last two times these teams have met. The Wallabies have won their last 11 games against Argentina on home soil and the only time the Pumas have earned a win in Australia was in July 1983 - the first ever clash between the sides in the country. The Wallabies enjoy a 76 percent win rate against Argentina, their best rate against any international team they've faced more than 20 times. Australia have boasted the best scrum success rate in The Rugby Championship so far (95 percent). However, their line-out success sits at a competition-low 75 percent, with the Wallabies losing 3.3 line-outs per game on average on their own throw. The final quarter of games this campaign is the only quarter in which the Wallabies have scored (12) more points than they have conceded (10), the same quarter in which Argentina have conceded 34 more points than they've scored. Argentina are on the hunt for a second win in a single Rugby Championship campaign for the first time since they joined the competition in 2012, they also need only 35 more points to eclipse their most points in a Rugby Championship campaign (105 in 2014). All three of the Wallabies' tries have come on the back of a line-out win so far this campaign, only the All Blacks (5) have scored more frequently after beginning possession with a line-out. Argentina have conceded just 13 turnovers per game so far this campaign, the fewest of any team, while they win an average of 7.7 turnovers per game in reply. Bernard Foley has kicked eight goals from nine attempts, giving him the best goal-kicking accuracy (89 percent) of any player who has made more than two attempts at the sticks. Argentina's Facundo Isa has made 41 carries in three games so far this campaign, the most of any player and five more than the next busiest player, Israel Folau (36).

Prediction: In the last few years Argentina produced a number of firsts and they may well add a first-ever Rugby Championship win on Australian soil to that. However, the margin of such a victory - which is very likely - will be in single digits.

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com

* Statistical data provided by Opta Sport

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