Preview: Argentina v Australia

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:16
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RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND SIX: Argentina and Australia will both be keen to end this year's Rugby Championship in style.

TheSouthern Hemisphere tournament breaks new ground with a match at Twickenham on Saturday.

The clash at England's headquarters will be the first time a Rugby Championship fixture has been staged in the Northern Hemisphere, with organisers hoping to tap into the two countries' expatriate following in London in the hope of a big crowd.

This weekend's fixture gives Argentina, who've already defeated South Africa, one last chance to reach their stated ambition of two wins in this season's edition.

For the faltering Wallabies, beaten 18-10 last weekend by the Springboks in Pretoria, Saturday's match provides an opportunity to end a tough campaign on a high in a tournament where unbeaten New Zealand have long since made sure of the title.

Twickenham is a venue both teams know well, with Australia playing several matches there last year en route to their World Cup Final defeat by New Zealand - including a 29-15 semifinal win over Argentina.

"Playing at Twickenham's a great opportunity and whether the crowd is for or against us, as long as we're united as a team, that's all that matters to us," said Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper.

"That's what we're going to focus on, and the crowd can support whoever they want. We're going to go out there united and do that best we can against Argentina."

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika added: "I imagine Argentina have a reason for bringing their home game here.

"I think it's exciting - playing Argentina in England back in the day, it was never even thought of, unless it was just a friendly game. But here you are.

"For us in Australia we only get a few games a year at home, and I think we've had all ours, and we love playing in front of our home crowd, so I wouldn't be too keen on letting any of our home games go away. I can assure you of that."

For Juan Manuel Leguizamon, the veteran Pumas flank who played in England for London Irish, a Test against Australia at Twickenham is the realisation of a dream.

"To be honest I would never have imagined we would be where we are when I started playing for the Pumas," said Leguizamon, who made his Argentina debut in 2005.

"We're very happy to have these opportunities."

Should Australia defeat Argentina, they will likely finish runners-up in the tournament, provided New Zealand defeat South Africa.

Not that Cheika was concerned: "No one cares about second. Winners are winners, they're the ones that count," he said.

Australia have suffered six defeats in eight Tests since the World Cup, with Cheika blooding several youngsters - a process that is set to continue should Bath back-row Leroy Houston make his debut off the bench.

Wallaby No.8 Lopeti Timani is set for a first Test start after replacing the injured Sean McMahon.

The other change to the starting side beaten by the Springboks in Pretoria sees Rory Arnold take over from experienced lock Rob Simmons.

Australia might have won last weekend had they taken their chances and Cooper, who will have Bernard Foley alongside him at inside centre, said: "I guess that's why the loss hurts so much because we left so many opportunities out there.

Meanwhile Argentina wing Manuel Montero and fly-half Nicolas Sanchez must both past late fitness tests if they are to face the Wallabies following the Pumas' 36-17 defeat by New Zealand in Buenos Aires last week.

"We will give them every chance to prove their fitness," said Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade.

"The fact that we are not playing at home probably generates something that is not so strong for the team, but on the other hand it's very important to play at Twickenham in this type of game."

Players to watch:

For Argentina: Leonardo Senatore, playing in the absence of the injured Facundo Isa, will have a vital role to fulfil at No.8. He will be tasked to get them over the advantage line - as rising star Isa has been doing all year. Wing Manuel Montero and flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez will both face late fitness Tests before their participation in the Test is confirmed - placing them in the spotlight before the game.

For Australia: Rebels back row forward Lopeti Timani - who comes in at No.8 for the injured Sean McMahon - will get his first start for the Wallabies, making sure he will be closely watched. Brumbies lock Rory Arnold, who returns in place of veteran Rob Simmons, will have a key role to play in the set pieces.

Head to head: You often look at the halfback positions for decisive showdowns and this game will be no different - Martín Landajo (Argentina) against Will Genia (Australia), two wily scrumhalves who understand the importance of quality service and the ability to keep the opposition guessing. There is certainly nothing robotic about these two. Set pieces are also key - no more so than in the scrums, where Ramiro Herrera, Agustín Creevy and Lucas Noguera (Argentina) will face off against Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore and Scott Sio (Australia). The two hookers - Creevy and Moore, are also the captains of their respective teams.

Recent results:
2016: Australia won 36-20, Perth
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)

Statistical review: Australia have won 12 of their last 13 games with Argentina, including the last three meetings all by a margin of at least two converted tries. The Pumas have scored 108 points already this year, making it their highest scoring Rugby Championship campaign ever, a win in this match would make it the first time they have ever won two games in an edition of the tournament. Since the start of the 2012 season Australia have lost nine of their 12 away games in this competition, their only wins (three) on the road in this time coming in Argentina, however this game will be the first to be hosted by a non-participating nation (England, Twickenham). This will be the ninth time Argentina have played at Twickenham, the last time they played there was against Australia in the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup. This will be Australia's first visit to Twickenham since the 2015 World Cu Final, when they lost to New Zealand, they had won all four of their earlier matches at the venue in the tournament though. Five players have made 50 or more carries in this tournament, four of which play for these two teams (Facundo Isa 85, Pablo Matera 57, Agustin Creevy 50, Israel Folau 50). Australia (80 percent) are the only team to have a line-out success rate below 90 percent in this tournament, on average they have lost 2.6 throws per game. Argentina have the best goal kicking rate in the competition this year (89 percent) with Nicolas Sanchez slotting 20 of his 23 efforts and Juan Martin Hernández and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias both slotting the two efforts each they have had. Michael Hooper (61) has made 10 more tackles than any other player in the competition after five weeks, conversely the three players to miss the most tackles are all Australian too (Foley 14, Haylett-Petty 13, Mumm 11). Israel Folau has more tries against Argentina (4 in 7 games) than against any other nation, however he has now gone 11 games in this competition without crossing the try-line.

Prediction: This could actually be a very entertaining and intriguing match, with both teams having had their moments of quality rugby. However, they have also hot some low notes and consistency has been the most obvious aspect missing from their games. Argentina have already lost a couple of key players and could lose two more. It is likely the Wallabies will have the edge and win by less than 10 points in a thriller.

Teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 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 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Tomás Cubelli, 21 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 22 Jerónimo De la Fuente/Gabriel Ascarate, 23 Ramiro Moyano/Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Leroy Houston, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.

Date: Saturday, October 8
Venue: Twickenham, England
Kick-off: 18.30 (15.30 Argentinean time; 05.30 AEDT, Sunday, October 9)
Expected weather: Cloudy skies will bring showers, with some warm sunny spells likely. High of 17°C and a low of 9°C
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com

* Statistics provided by Opta Sport

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Team P W D L Pts
New Zealand 6 6 0 0 30
Australia 6 3 0 3 14
South Africa 6 2 0 4 10
Argentina 6 1 0 5 5