Argentina v Australia - Teams and predictions
TRI-NATIONS ROUND FOUR: Former Wallaby coach Michael Cheika could come back to haunt his old team on Saturday.
He will attempt to help Argentina pull off their second straight upset after last week’s stunning win over New Zealand.
The Pumas are riding high after their 25-15 Tri-Nations defeat of the All Blacks last week in Sydney, with a brick-wall defence helping them to their first win over the three-time world champions.
Dave Rennie’s Australia are now in their sights in Newcastle, as they hunt for their first back-to-back wins against Tier One opposition since defeating Italy and France in June 2016.
Despite not playing since last year’s World Cup, Argentina played an astute game in Sydney, holding onto the ball well and when they did kick, forcing uncharacteristic All Blacks errors.
Captain Pablo Matera credited the influence of Cheika, who is with the team as a consultant after a call from coach Mario Ledesma, an old friend who used to work with the Wallabies.
“The first day he said: ‘Hey, what are you waiting for? You’ve got everything’,” Matera said of Cheika.
“He also told us: ‘You’ve got big physical players, young players, a lot of energy. Just go and take it’.”
Cheika’s fingerprints are likely to be all over the match again on Saturday against a Wallabies team he coached until their World Cup quarterfinal loss to England last year.
Rennie insisted he wasn’t worried about the inside knowledge that might come from his predecessor, who departed acrimoniously after Australia’s failed World Cup campaign.
“We haven’t spoken about it,” Rennie said.
“I’m not certain what his role is, I know he’s come in as some form of specialist and chipping in where required.
“Certainly, there was a really impressive defensive effort [last week] so if he had anything to do with that, he’s done a good job.”
Ledesma has named an unchanged run-on side, with Stade Francais playmaker Nicolas Sanchez again shaping as key after scoring all 25 points against the All Blacks, including their lone try and six penalties.
But his record against Australia is not as hot, scoring just one try across 13 previous Tests.
Ledesma cited Australia’s set-piece and their offensive threat as areas of concern.
“We just have to be spot-on in our game plan, and that is our kicking game, and to control the tempo,” he said.
“We’ve worked a lot during the week on being fresh after the emotion of last week after not playing that kind of rugby or that level of intensity for a long time.”
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Once again the odds are stacked against Argentina.
They have lost 17 of their last 19 against the Wallabies, including 14 of the previous 15 in Australia.
But their confidence is high and they are searching for a fourth win in five Tests, having beaten New Zealand, the United States and Tonga, with England their only defeat.
“I’m well aware of how good Argentina was last week and it’s a chance for us to show that we are developing and are getting better. A win would put us in a pretty strong position,” said Rennie.
Australia needs the victory to keep alive their hopes of winning the Tri-Nations, with one win from two so far.
“The Pumas really dominated the kicking stats last week, which was surprising. The All Blacks held onto a lot of ball, made errors and got punished,” said Rennie.
“So we expect them to kick a lot to us and then try and get a wall in front of us. We’ve got a plan around that.”
Players to watch
For Argentina: It did not come as a surprise that Wallaby captain Michael Hooper nominated his Pumas counterpart and inspirational blindside flank Pablo Matera, who was immense against the All Blacks, and flyhalf and record-setting point-scorer Nicolas Sanchez as Argentina’s chief threats. However, the key for Los Pumas is in the tight forwards – Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
For Australia: They have kept the same backline that helped orchestrate their upset of the All Blacks, but made three changes among the forwards. Scott Sio comes in for injured prop James Slipper, while Ned Hanigan will start at blindside flank – after Lachlan Swinton was sent off on his debut. Elsewhere, hulking prop Taniela Tupou, nicknamed the ‘Tongan Thor’, takes over from Allan Alaalatoa in a bid to help Australia tame an Argentinian pack that more than matched the All Blacks.
Head to head
Australia is set to play a men’s Test at McDonald Jones Stadium for just the second time and the first time since a 6-9 loss to Scotland in June 2012.
Argentina will be hunting for back-to-back wins against fellow Tier One opposition in men’s Tests for the first time since defeating Italy and France in consecutive encounters in June 2016.
Australia has made an average of eight clean breaks per game in the 2020 Tri-Nations, the most of any team and twice as many as Argentina managed throughout their first game of the tournament (four).
Argentina conceded just four turnovers in their Round Three win over New Zealand, fewer than half as many as any other team has in a game so far this tournament.
Michael Hooper (Australia) has gained 4.4 metres per carry in the 2020 Tri-Nations, the most of any forward to have made at least 10 carries in this competition.
Nicolas Sanchez (Argentina) has scored two tries and a total of 40 points across his last two Test appearances. However, he has scored only one try in 13 previous Test caps against Australia.
@rugby365com: Australia by seven points
Argentina: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Santiago Grondona, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Emiliano Boffelli, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Wallabies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Valetini, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-off: 19.45 (05.45 Buenos Aires time; 08.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Pleasant with clouds and sun. High of 23°C and low of 18°C
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Angus Gardner
TMO: Nic Berry
* Statistics provided by OptaSport