Preview: Wales v Argentina
Preview: Wales v ArgentinaSHARE
Two nations threatening to shake-up the world order face each other when Wales welcome Argentina to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The red dragons of Wales and Los Pumas of South America may only be ranked sixth and eighth, respectively, in the International Rugby Board standings but are arguably the most improved Test teams of recent years.
Hosts Wales are the reigning European champions, having claimed a third clean sweep of the Six Nations in eight years in March, on the back of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup in New Zealand.
Meanwhile Argentina come into the match fresh from a promising debut in the Rugby Championship that saw them prove stubborn opponents to the might of world champions New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with the Pumas managing a draw against the Springboks.
Saturday's contest will indicate how much either side has learned from recently facing the top three teams in the world and go a long way to defining their final campaign of the year.
Wales captain Sam Warburton is braced for a tough month of rugby with Samoa, the All Blacks and Wallabies following Argentina to Cardiff in successive weeks.
"The great thing about the year-end [Tests] is that you're playing the best teams in the world back-to-back at the Millennium Stadium," said Warburton.
"Even in the Six Nations we get the odd week off between games so physically and mentally it's a tough and demanding campaign because with games one after the other," the flank added.
"Argentina's involvement in the Rugby Championship will have done them so much good and their standard of rugby will have gone through the roof from playing in that intensity.
"It's a massive challenge but hopefully we can get off to a winning start because momentum is always the key thing in these campaigns, as it was in the Six Nations and World Cup.
"We need to click from the off as a good win could set up a good campaign, and we've given ourselves every possible chance by having a good build-up."
Wales, who twice lost narrowly away to Australia in June, prepared for this series of games with their now customary camp at a former Olympic facility in Poland where players use chryotherapy chambers, in which they are exposed to temperatures as low as -140 degrees, to aid recovery.
"It's a pretty brutal week that none of the players enjoy but it's worth it because we have all seen the results of that hard from previous trips before the World Cup and Six Nations," said Warburton.
Wales include 11 of their Grand Slam winning team but hand a debut to 26-year-old prop Aaron Jarvis as well as only a second Test start for flank Josh Turnbull following injuries to front-row Adam Jones and loose forwards Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones.
Argentina start with 11 players who appeared in the Rugby Championship team but have recalled two vastly experienced former fly-halves in Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martin Hernandez to their back division.
"To be playing against the best three teams in the world was great competition for us," said Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
"We have tried to take advantage of that and hopefully use all the experience we have gained to keep improving.
"But we know it is going to be a tough challenge at the Millennium Stadium which is a great place to play rugby.
"Wales are full of great players who have been together for a long time and we saw how close they came to Australia in June."
Players to watch:
For Wales: You always look at the big names in the Welsh backline – Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and George North, but the key for the hosts will be the performance of the halfback combination of Rhys Priestland (at flyhalf) and Tavis Knoyle (scrumhalf). Sam Warburton's leadership will also play a big role, while Alun-Wyn Jones, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins bring plenty of experience to the set pieces – another key in any game to Argentina.
For Argentina: It all starts with recalled veteran Felipe Contepomi, who missed the Rugby Championship, but remains a world class player. Juan Martin Hernandez, Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Jose Imhoff provide the attacking options, but Nicolas Sanchez is the general that must guide the troops. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has been an inspiration captain all year, but will look for support from Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Eusebio Guinazu.
Head to head: There is the mouth-watering contest between two of the biggest names of the game – Jamie Roberts (Wales) and Felipe Contepomi (Argentina) in the midfield. However, the place where the Pumas can get a real edge is in the set pieces, particularly the front row – Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins (Wales) versus Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu and Marcos Ayerza.
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 25-27, Patagonia
2004: Wales won 35-20, Buenos Aires
2004: Argentina won 50-44, Tucuman
2001: Argentina won 30-16, Cardiff
1999: Wales won 23-18, Cardiff (World Cup pool match)
1999: Wales won 23-16, Buenos Aires
Prediction: Wales is without doubt the best of the Northern Hemisphere team and the one side that will knock over a few of the visitors from the south – starting with Argentina on Saturday. Wales should win by about 10 to 15 points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Paul James, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Jose Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Leonardo Senatore, 5 Julio Farias Cabello, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Juan Gomez, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Nicolas Vergallo, 22 Horacio Agulla, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.
Date: Saturday, November 10
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT)
Expected weather: The roof will be closed, which negates the expected showers. High of 10°C and a low of 5°C
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
rugby365 & AFP