Preview: Argentina v Australia

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 10:16

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND SIX: Pointless Argentina need a win over Australia in Mendoza on Saturday to avoid the 2017 campaign being the worst since they joined the competition five years ago.

After five consecutive losses to South Africa, New Zealand and away to Australia, Los Pumas are doomed to finish bottom of the table a fifth time.

But during two previous winless seasons, Argentina secured losing bonus points that have eluded them this year.

A losing bonus point is awarded in the Southern Hemisphere championship to a team that is beaten by less than eight points.

"It is true that we are battling to achieve victories," conceded veteran No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon after a 36-10 defeat by New Zealand in Buenos Aires last weekend.

"However, no other group of rugby players in the world are playing Super Rugby for six months followed almost immediately by Tests.

"It is a very difficult situation, but offers us the opportunity to face some of the best teams in the world virtually every weekend."

Argentine national team players compete in Super Rugby as the Jaguares then morph into Pumas come the Test windows.

Former star South Africa lock Victor Matfield told the Argentine media recently that a reason why the Pumas have been struggling is that their stars get no rest.

He signalled out hooker Agustin Creevy, who starts every Jaguares and Pumas match because he skippers both sides.

This can also lead to understudies becoming frustrated with Jaguares and Pumas reserve hooker Julian Montoya reportedly linked to English Premiership club Gloucester.

In Mendoza, Creevy leads a team showing four changes to that which started against the All Blacks and were run ragged during the opening half before improving dramatically.

In the lone change made by coach Daniel Hourcade among the backs, Martin Landajo replaces injured Tomas Cubelli at scrumhalf.

Cubelli can offer unique insight into Australian rugby having being part of the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies Super Rugby outfit before joining the Jaguares.

Locks Marcos Kremer and Matias Alemanno take over from Guido Petti and the ill-disciplined Tomas Lavanini, whose latest transgression was a yellow card against the All Blacks.

In a back row shuffle, flank Tomas Lezana switches to number eight in place of Leguizamon with Javier Ortega Desio drafted in.

Only Montoya, prop Santiago Garcia Botta and winger/full-back Santiago Cordero survive from the bench chosen for the New Zealand Test.

Australia assistant coach and former star Stephen Larkham is wary of Los Pumas, believing them to be a better team that a record of one victory in eight Tests this year suggests.

Before the Rugby Championship, Argentina lost twice to a virtual England reserve side because of British and Irish Lions call-ups and beat second-tier rugby nation Georgia.

"Coming up against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia -- three of the top five teams in the world -- on a continuous basis is really tough," said Larkham.

"Their world ranking [10th] probably does not do justice to how good they are. They have slid down the ladder because they play such strong opposition.

"I have noticed a lot of improvement from the Jaguares in Super Rugby and much of that has been transferred into the national team."

Australia have retained the side that began a 27-27 draw in South Africa -- the first time the same run-on team has been chosen for successive Tests since Michael Cheika became coach in 2014.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: You would have to look at the entire Argemntinean team to see if they would contain themselves and remain disciplined - their biggest downfall the last couple of years. For entertainment value there is fullback Joaquin Tuculet, centre Jeronimo de la Fuente and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.

For Australia: You will look at the power of Tevita Kuridrani and the guile of fellow centre Kurtley Beale. Perhaps scrumhalf Will Genia will pull something out of his bag of magic tricks?

Head to head: You don't need to look much further than fullnback - where Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina) and Israel Folau (Australia) could be very entertaining with ball in hand. How will the Los Pumas front row of Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy and Lucas Noguera Paz cope with their Wallaby rivals - Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Scott Sio?

Recent results:
2017: Australia won 45-20, Canberra
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

Prediction: Australia have won 14 of their last 15 games against Argentina, including each of their last five clashes. Indeed, the Wallabies have come away with a win on four of their last five visits to Argentina to face the Pumas, including a 34-9 victory on their last such expedition. This will be the Pumas’ fifth Test at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, though they’ve picked up just one win from their previous four fixtures at the venue. The Wallabies have now gone three games without loss, the last time they went longer undefeated was in 2015 with a run of seven straight victories that included the Rugby World Cup. Argentina will be looking for their first win of the tournament; the last time they finished a Rugby Championship campaign without a win was in 2013. Australia haven’t won any of their last four games away from home (D1, L3), the last time they went longer without an away win was a five-game drought from 2008 to 2009. Argentina are the only team to have conceded an average of more than one card per game this tournament (five yellow and one red), while Australia are the only team yet to have a player sent from the field. Australia have scored 14 second-half tries so far this campaign, more than any other team in the competition, while Argentina have scored just four in the same period. o Just two players have made 50+ tackles in this tournament, Michael Hooper (59/71) and Sean McMahon (56/59). Israel Folau has crossed the try line five times this campaign, more than any other player in the competition; no Australian has ever scored more than five in an edition of this competition (Folau scored five in 2013). Argentina can win, but their lack of discipline could again trip them up. We put our money on Australia to win by 15 points.

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Santiago Cordero.

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

Date: Saturday, October 7
Venue: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Kick-off: 19.40 (22.40 GMT; 08.40, Sunday, October 8, AEST)
Expected weather: Mostly sunny, wqith a high of 28°C  abd a low of 13°C
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com

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