Argentina v Wales - Teams and Prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND SIX: The first World Cup quarterfinal sees Los Pumas up against the Dragons in Marseilles on Saturday with a semifinal spot up for grabs.
Both sides were rocked by injuries in the week building up to the big clash as Wales’ Taulupe Faletau and Argenintina’s Pablo Matera were ruled out.
Wales, drawn into Pool C, secured the top spot with a perfect record of four wins in four, while Argentina came second in Pool D, notching up 14 points in their four games, finishing four points behind England.
The seventh ranked Wales will be hoping to finally reach a RWC final this year, having only managed to reach the semifinals in the first-ever tournament back in 1987 and then again in 2019.
Argentina went into their opening match of the tournament against England as favourites. However, they failed to live up to the tag as the Red Roses, led by George North, secured a 27-10 victory. Los Pumas then took on Samoa with a second-string side and claimed their first win of the tournament.
A demolition of Chile followed before they secured their spot in the last eight by beating Japan 39-27 last week. Still, this will be a difficult match for Argentina, who lost to Wales 13-20 back in November last year. In addition, over the 21 meetings between these nations, Los Pumas have only won six while losing 14 and drawing one.
Few thought Warren Gatland’s Welsh side would be in after a year of turmoil.
Welsh rugby was in disarray when Gatland was hired for a second time, taking over from Kiwi predecessor Wayne Pivac as uncertainty over a deal between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and its regional clubs left players worrying about their futures.
Gatland, who led Wales to three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-finals (2011, 2019) in his first tenure, said he revelled in handling tournament teams that felt like clubs.
What will happen today?
“I have always spoken about how much I have enjoyed the World Cups because of preparation,” he said.
“It’s the only time you get to feel you are a club side in terms of getting our detail done and having an off season and feeling like you can make a huge amount of progress.
“That has helped us in the past and we have done pretty well at World Cups and we have tended to do well in Six Nations following World Cups as well.”
Gatland said some coaches would joke “‘what is going to happen today? What is going to be the next thing that is thrown at us?'” during the challenges over the last 12 months.
“I think there has definitely been a line in the sand that has been drawn under that and if we can make the semi-finals it would be a huge achievement for this group of players and the coaches who have done a great job,” he said.
“I know there are some people in some teams out there who won’t want to face a Wales team when they start playing with confidence and start having momentum.
“That is when we are at our most dangerous, we are starting to look that way at the moment.”
Gatland made six changes to the team that beat Georgia 43-19 to ensure Wales finished the pool phase unbeaten with 19 points from a maximum 20.
Jac Morgan is welcomed back on the flank as skipper, while Dan Biggar and Liam Williams have both shaken off injuries for starting spots at flyhalf and fullback.
Aaron Wainwright fills in at No 8 in the absence of Faletau, who broke his arm against the Georgians.
Argentina coach Michael Cheika made two changes to his team, bringing in Tomas Cubelli at scrumhalf and Facundo Isa at No 8, the latter to make up for the absence of the injured Matera.
Like Wales, Los Pumas are also seeking a third appearance in the semifinal of the World Cup having made the last-four stage at the 2007 and 2015 tournaments.
‘Wales are favourites’
Cheika, who guided Australia to the 2015 final, said that “Wales are favourites and that’s pretty clearly obvious, everyone’s made that point to us bar our Argentine supporters.
“We know that we’re going to have to do something different, something special around the game on Saturday so that we can be competitive with them, but I’m a huge believer in the team.
“They’ve felt a bit of that expectation of trying to make it through and I think they’ll really enjoy Saturday and from the work we’ve done I feel like they’ll feel like they’re ready.”
Marcos Kremer and Juan Martin Gonzalez are the only two Los Pumas players to have started every match at this years’ World Cup.
While Los Pumas have improved notably this year, Wales are looking like a very solid unit and are likely to win the battle of the packs in this one. The kicking game could be extremely important here, and with Biggar back in the side, Wales may just have the upper hand.
Players to watch:
For Wales: The availability of experienced flyhalf Dan Biggar in particular is a huge boost to the Dragons. With over 100 caps under his belt, his presence alone will be a huge comfort for the Dragons. Louis Rees-Zammit is the only player to have started all five of Wales’ matches at this World Cup, in which he has registered five tries and one assist. The wing has some impressive stats as he leads the team for defenders beaten (14) and carry metres (325), as well as the joint-most line breaks with four alongside George North. The loss of Taulupe Faletau sees Aaron Wainwright returning to play number eight. He is very experienced with 42 previous caps including playing in the quarterfinal four years ago against France. Adam Beard will play second-row after missing the game against Georgia for strategic reasons. He will be a key component of Wales’ lineout against Los Pumas.
For Argentina: Facundo Isa has the enviable task of stepping into the big boots of injured Pablo Matera. But his explosive ball-carrying and defense abilities will be welcomed by the Argentines. The option of Tomas Cubelli is for cleaner distribution and organization from the base of the rucks. Cubelli joins Santiago Carreras in the halves. They will be the play-makers. There have been calls for Nicolás Sánchez to start but Cheika is sticking to his guns. The loose-forward combination of Isa, Juan Martin and Marcos Kremer is in contrast to Wales’ mobile selections. Argentina have opted for big carriers and defenders and have more to call-upon with Rodrigo Bruni as a replacement.
Key RWC info:
- Wales scored the opening try in all four matches at RWC 2023, and all inside the opening 20 minutes of the game.
- Wales also scored six of their 17 tries down the left edge, compared to just one down the right channel.
- Argentina has the highest success-rate of scoring a try from a lineout 10 metres out from the opposition try-line, converting a tournament-high 71% lineouts thrown into tries.
- Los Pumas enjoyed the second-highest percentage of territory (56%) and third-highest amount of possession (56%) of any team at RWC 2023, but have only scored the eighth most tries (15).
- The 15 Argentina tries are the second-fewest of any of the eight quarterfinalists. Only Fiji enter this round with fewer tries (9) than Argentina in the pool stage.
@Rugby365: Wales by four points
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Beffelli, 13 Lucio Clinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matias Moroni
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Christ Tshiunza, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Rio Dyer
Date: Saturday, October 14
Venue: Stade de Marseille, Marseille
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT; 16.00 UK & Ireland time; 12.00 ART)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)