PREVIEW: Australia versus Argentina

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:15

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FOUR: The Wallabies are looking to secure a first Rugby Championship win by making sure they close out the Test against Argentina on Saturday after some frustrating close shaves.

Australia led 20-10 in the second half against South Africa in Perth last week, only for the Springboks to snatch a 23-23 draw. 

It followed a heartbreaking 29-35 defeat to the All Blacks in Dunedin last month when the Australians relinquished a 17-point lead as New Zealand snatched the winning try with two minutes left. 

The Wallabies have won 13 of their last 14 games against the Pumas and have lost only once to Argentina in 13 Tests at home, but are struggling for victories this year. 

Michael Cheika's team have won only two of their six internationals this season and vice-captain Will Genia said the Wallabies must find a way to cope with the pressure moments and push on to win.

"It's about just handling those moments better because in the moment that's when you are a little bit flustered," the 81 Test-capped scrumhalf said.

"We've just got to make sure that when we are presented with those tough moments in games, we respond how we want with clear minds as opposed to just being a little bit rattled."

The Pumas traditionally give the Wallabies problems, particularly at scrum time, and Genia expects Argentina to come hard after they led the All Blacks 22-15 before going down 22-39 last week in New Zealand.

"I think they'll [Argentina] come at the breakdown pretty hard and look to attack us when they have the ball around the ruck," he said.

"We've got to make sure we have a real conscious effort to tighten up those areas of our game."

The Wallabies have made just one change to their starting XV with experienced lock Rob Simmons replacing Rory Arnold, who has missed out on this week's matchday squad.

The Pumas have made four changes with Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Ramiro Moyano and Matias Orlando named in the starting XV.

Lezana will start at No.8 in place of Benjamin Macone while Landajo replaces former Brumbies scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli.

Joaquin Tuculet and Santiago Cordero have made way for winger Moyano and outside centre Orlando, with Emiliano Boffelli to start at fullback.

Argentina flank Pablo Matera said he was keen to test himself against Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper at the breakdown.

"We always watch our opponents' stats and Michael Hooper's stats are amazing, he's a player that runs a lot everywhere, really complete player," Matera said.

"The Wallabies has been always an issue [for us] with the breakdown - [David] Pocock, Hooper, a lot of players that go for the ball and I think that's why we are working a lot on that."

Matera said he was expecting a fast start from the Wallabies, something Argentina will have to match if they want to replicate their All Blacks effort.

"I know they need to win, same as us, it's going to be a really difficult match," he said.

"The first minutes of the game are really intense and I believe if we manage to do a really good first-half, like we did last week, I think we'll have a lot of chances to win."  

Players to watch:

For Australia: Kurtley Beale has been in outstanding for Australia so far and he will be the go to man to spark something in the midfield. Fullback Israel Folau is the best in the world at the moment in his position and he is absolutely deadly in broken play. Captain and flank Michael Hooper will be key at the breakdowns and his work on defence has also been a hallmark of his play recently.

For Argentina: Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez lifted his game against the All Blacks last week and his teammates will look to him to run things smoothly against the Wallabies. Scrumhalf Martin Landajo will also have a spotlight on him to see if he can better Tomas Cubelli's influential performance against the All Blacks. In the pack, captain and hooker Agustin Creevy is probably their best player with his robust style of play.

Head to head: The breakdown battle will be an intriguing one in this match with Michael Hooper up against Pablo Matera. Agustin Creevy will also look to build on his performance against New Zealand and his opposite number Tatafu Polota-Nau is no slouch around the park either. Finally, the two flyhalves, Bernard Foley and Nicolas Sanchez, will look to stamp their authority on proceedings and they could be influential in deciding the winner of this match.

Recent results: 
2016: Australia won 33-21, London
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

Prediction: Australia have won 13 of their last 14 games against Argentina, including each of the last four meetings between the nations. Argentina picked up an 18-3 win on their first ever visit to Australia to face the Wallabies in 1983, though they’ve since been defeated in their ensuring 12 attempts. This will be the 10th Test played at GIO Stadium, and the second between these nations after the Wallabies picked up a 32-25 win against the Pumas in 2000. In fact, Australia's four previous Tests at the venue have seen them run out to four victories by an average margin of 38 points. Argentina have won only one of their six Tests so far this year, the last time they finished a calendar year with a lower win rate was when they went winless from three games in 1976. Both Argentina and Australia have conceded 15 tries so far this campaign, five more than New Zealand and nine more than South Africa. The Wallabies have scored 73 percent (8/11) of their tries on the opening phase of possession, the highest percentage of any team in the competition. Israel Folau has made 32 carries for 351 metres this tournament, 97 metres more than any other player has managed. Agustin Creevy has already won five turnovers this tournament, the equal most of any player alongside Malcolm Marx, despite playing just 180 minutes. Argentina will put up a fight like they did against the All Blacks, but the Wallabies will be desperate to win after coming so close in the last two matches against the All Blacks and South Africa. The Wallabies will win by seven points at least.

Teams: 

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Marika Koroibete.

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel tatez Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Juan Martin Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Manuel Montero.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com

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