Preview: Argentina v Australia
Preview: Argentina v AustraliaSHARE
Argentina will have their last and best chance to record their first Rugby Championship win when they take on Australia in Rosario.
The Wallabies have been decimated by injury this year and after their brutal encounter with the Springboks last week they are as vulnerable as they ever have been.
The Pumas are coming off a sound drubbing from the All Blacks, and they will want to prove that they are a far more imposing force at home than they showed last week.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has had to endure a ridiculous injury toll but he is still under serious pressure to keep his job as none of the Wallabies' victories this year have been particularly convincing.
Australia are yet to win a game away from home this year, so Argentina will feel that this is the ultimate chance to cap a competitive debut season in the competition with a victory in their final match.
Pumas coach Santiago Phelan has named an unchanged starting line-up from the side that did duty against the All Blacks last week, and it will be interesting to see if they try and play with more width as they did in La Plata, or whether they revert to their forward-based grinding game that saw them nearly take victory over the Wallabies at the Gold Coast.
Phelan hopes his show of faith will heal most of the mental scars inflicted by world champions New Zealand, who recovered from conceding an early try to provide a masterclass of power and pace as they ran the home team ragged.
Replacement back Martin Rodriguez dislocated a shoulder trying to stem the All Blacks tide and his place on the bench goes to Nicolas Sanchez, who stood in for injured Juan Martin Hernandez in a 16-16 home draw against South Africa.
A second change among the substitutes sees forward Leonardo Senatore replace Tomas Vallejos as the Pumas try to build on an unlucky 23-19 loss in Australia last month that could have been averted with better place kicking.
Deans is under no illusions about the threat posed by the South Americans as they seek a first Rugby Championship victory on their home turf.
The Wallabies coach expects the Pumas to try and bully his team after they were physically dominated by the Springboks last week, but having picked lock Sitaleki Timani on the flank Deans believes his side have the firepower to handle whatever their hosts throw at them.
"We know the Pumas will come straight at us, hoping to profit at the collisions the same way the Springboks did last weekend.
"That issue has been addressed – internally in our discussions and also in our team selections – and we have gone for players best suited to a physical approach," he said.
The weather may also play a big role in the outcome, with thundershowers predicted for Rosario on Saturday, and it could well come down to a duel between the two forward packs in the wet conditions.
The fixture at the 40,000-seat Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, a football ground like all others used by the Pumas for home fixtures, will be a special occasion for veteran Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe as he rises to 111 caps.
That makes the skipper the most capped Australian forward, ahead of retired flank George Smith, and the second most capped Wallaby after legendary scrumhalf George Gregan, who made 139 appearances.
Argentina have hosted Australia seven times since 1979, winning three, losing three and drawing one with the Wallabies emerging 17-6 victors the last time they clashed 10 years ago in Buenos Aires.
Players to watch:
For Argentina: Outside centre Marcelo Bosch has been a stand-out performer for his side, and will once again be crucial to their defensive organisation. Fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino should provide an attacking spark along with exciting scrumhalf Martin Landajo who tested the All Blacks' defence last week. Up front captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero will want to set the tone.
For Australia: Kurtley Beale will be expected to shine in his new position as playmaker, and if he can put players like Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley in space then the Wallabies could pose a serious threat out wide. In the forward pack captain Nathan Sharpe will need all of his experience to lead his side to victory whilst all eyes will be on Sitaleki Timani who is playing at flank instead of lock.
Head to head: The match-up at flyhalf will be key with Juan Martin Hernandez looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance against the All Blacks and Kurtley Beale keen to prove that he is the answer in the Wallaby No.10 jersey. The battle for the loose ball between openside flanks Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Michael Hooper should be intense, and in the front row Roncero and Wallabies tighthead Ben Alexander will have another keen tussle
2012: Australia won 23-19 in Gold Coast
2003: Australia won 24-8 in Sydney
2002: Australia won 17-6 in Buenos Aires
2000: Australia won 32-25 in Canberra
2000: Australia won 53-6 in Brisbane
1997: Argentina won 18-16 in Buenos Aires
Prediction: The Pumas have shown that they can be highly competitive, and they will be desperate to notch their first win against the wounded Wallabies. The visitors have plenty to prove but with the crowd behind them we are backing Argentina to take their first victory by about five points.
Argentina: 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 18 Leonardo Senatore, 19 Tomas Leonardi, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Nicolas Sanchez, 22 Juan Imhoff.
Australia: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Sitaleki Timani, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Dave Dennis, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Dominic Shipperley.
Date: Saturday, October 6
Venue: Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario
Kick-off: 20.10 (23.10 GMT; 09.10, Sunday, October 7 AEST)
Expected weather: Thundershowers with an 80 percent chance of rain, high of 26, low of 18
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)