Argentina v Japan - Teams and Prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND FIVE: It is a simple equation – a win at all costs World Cup match when Argentina and Japan face each other in a crucial Pool D fixture at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Sunday afternoon.
Despite both sides being on nine points, Japan finds themselves below Argentina on points difference, though with just one match left in the competition,it will be a straight shootout.
The Brave Blossoms have won just once in their past six meetings with the Pumas.
Argentina got its World Cup off to a poor start, losing to England in week one, but they have bounced back since then and come into this match with momentum on their side.
Los Pumas have won their last two matches in the competition by an average of over 30 points after handing fellow South Americans Chile a 59-5 beating in their last pool match, which saw them take second place in the group standings.
In their way, an Argentina side with high hopes of avoiding a repeat of the pool-stage exit they suffered in Japan four years ago, thanks to wins against Samoa and Chile.
Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika has made 11 changes to his starting XV from the team who defeated Chile 59-5 last week, with only Guido Petti, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez and Lucio Cinti retaining their places.
He has, however, stuck with his experience policy. The top three, and five of Los Pumas’ top six most capped players of all-time are named in this match-day squad – Agustín Creevy (104), Nicolas Sanchez (100), Pablo Matera (97), Julian Montoya (91) and Matias Alemanno (90).
A place in the last eight is the target for both sides. But, there can be only one.
Talking about the team to face Japan, Cheika said: “We think it has good balance, not only in the starting XV but also in the eight that finish the game.
“Lucio (Cinti) returns to the team with the mix of him starting and Matías Moroni finishing. (Tomás) Cubelli is improving the more he plays and with every training session he does, but he started the year without much work; I think that Bazán Vélez’s second half last week (against Chile), with a lot of energy, with a lot of danger on the side of the ruck, confirms his selection.
“We are happy with the team we have, with its consistency. The problem is the selection because we have Facundo Isa, Rodrigo Bruni, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Cubelli, who are putting pressure (on the starting XV). Happy, of course, with the group that plays this week.”
Cheika is very familiar with Japan, the country and the team, and understands their mentality.
“I have experience with the country and with the team, with their mentality. It is a very disciplined team, like the country. They know what they want to do strategically as a team in each game.
“We know that they were in the quarter-finals in the last World Cup and not us, so we want to change this situation.”
“We know the opponent, but it is more our game and how we can put them in difficulty and take points when we put that pressure on. In our preparation, we have analysed Japan, but more (we have worked) on how to put pressure on them.”
Japan coach Jamie Joseph said three years of preparation had gone into this World Cup Pool D decider against Argentina.
The Japanese made the quarterfinals of the last World Cup, on home soil, in 2019, famously taking the scalps of Ireland and Scotland in the pool stage.
Although they were knocked out by eventual winners South Africa, Joseph and his players were hailed as having turned the tide for rugby in Japan.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 7, 2023
There is no denying, however, that Japan, who also won three pool games in 2015 including against the Springboks but failed to advance to the quarters, have not recently posed the same threat to teams.
In France this time around, they overcame Chile 42-12 before losing 12-34 to England and then beating Samoa 28-22.
“It’s a big game of footy,” Joseph said.
“We’ve been preparing for the last three years for this game of rugby, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Joseph, who played for the All Blacks before switching allegiance to Japan, added: “We’ve got to make sure it’s not our last game.
“There have been a lot of close games, especially in this pool.
“What we’ve said to our team, our players, is that if we can get into a position where we have got a grand final which is for us against Argentina on the weekend, then we’re halfway there.
“We’ve just got to go play 80 minutes of rugby and make sure we play that rugby the best we can and play our style of rugby.”
Joseph said there were “no surprises” as Argentina counterpart Cheika picked a strong side for the game.
“It’s like a quarterfinal or semifinal for us already because the losing team goes home,” he said.
“The guys are really confident, I’m confident as a coach that our guys will put in a really good performance on the weekend.
“If we create the right pressure at the right time, I’m confident that we’ll win the Test match,” the coach said.
Players to watch:
For Japan: Captain Himeno leads the tackling statistics with a 100% success rate thus far in the tournament. He has made 31/31 making him third overall. He will again lead the Brave Blossoms by example. Flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda has been close to flawless during this World Cup, missing just one of his 16 kicks towards the posts. And should Japan land the first blow of the contest – whether it be through a try or kick – you would not expect him to let them down.
For Argentina: Fullback Emiliano Boffelli has been the glue that keeps the Los Pumas together through his accurate goal kicking, decision making and throwing him wholeheartedly into every match. He scored 16 points in a man-of-the-match performance against Samoa in their hardfought . Guido Petti has claimed more line-out takes from his own teams; throws than any other player in this years’ World Cup and his role will be vital as the set-pieces are not Japans’ strongpoint.
@Rugby365: Argentina by nine points
Japan: 15 Lomano Lemeki; 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita; 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Naoto Saito; 8 Kazuki Himeno (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch; 5 Amato Fakatava, 4 Jack Cornelsen; 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Warner Dearns, 20 Amanaki Saumaki, 21 Kenta Fukuda, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Jone Naikabula
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia; 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras; 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou; 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera; 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti; 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Lautaro Bazan, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matias Moroni
Date: Sunday, October 8
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Kick-off: 13.00 (11.00 GMT, 08.00 ART, 20.00 JST)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Additional sources AFP, @WorldRugby