Australia v Argentina - teams and predictions
TRI-NATIONS ROUND SIX: Australia skipper Michael Hooper called for “a complete performance” in the final Test of the year against a weakened Argentina.
Los Pumas are missing their captain after a row over his social media posts almost a decade ago.
Australia blew a golden opportunity to not only beat the Pumas a fortnight ago but put themselves in pole position to win the Tri-Nations.
They were leading 15-6 with 19 minutes left, but poor discipline handed Argentina a lifeline which flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez grabbed with both hands, nailing three consecutive penalties to draw the game.
It deprived the Wallabies of a vital win and they now need to crush Argentina in Sydney on Saturday by a massive 101 points to replace New Zealand at the top of the table and win the trophy.
Argentina has appeared in disarray this week, with captain Pablo Matera, second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino first suspended over what the national “discriminatory and xenophobic” tweets and then reinstated.
However, all three will miss Saturday’s game.
“We want to get both sides of our game to click. We’ve been good in patches in different games throughout the year,” said Hooper, whose side has been boosted by the return from injury of fly-half James O’Connor.
“We’re looking for a complete performance tomorrow, attack, counter-attack, defensively.
“We want to keep these guys – Sanchez, a great player – to minimal points and we need to be disciplined to do that.”
Sanchez has been Argentina’s standout player during the rollercoaster tour, which has included COVID-19 quarantine, the Pumas’ first win over the All Blacks and the racism row.
The flyhalf was pivotal during their first-ever victory over the All Blacks and the draw with Australia, scoring all 40 of their points so far.
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“We have got to play in smart areas of the field. Sanchez has an amazing boot on him and he did damage us in that last game,” said Hooper.
“We handed them three-pointers way too easily in the back end.
“We need to utilise smart attacking kicks, be smart around our breakdown decision-making and we want to grow our set piece as well, so that’s going to be a fair battle up front.”
The racist tweet scandal has impacted Argentina’s preparations with coach Mario Ledesma admitting his players had been “really, really affected”.
But Hooper said he expected Argentina to bring their usual passion.
“Some changes there, in terms of their players. But they have a really good squad,” he said.
“They’re clearly training well against each other during the week. And they’ll certainly be up for it, they’re a passionate bunch of guys.”
With hot, muggy conditions and a possible thunderstorm forecast for the game Hooper, added that “the team that navigates that, will do well on the park”.
Players to watch
For Australia: The return of James O’Connor is expected to fire an underperforming Wallaby backline. It also means the versatile Reece Hodge is back in his preferred position at fullback. Hodge have started for the Wallabies in every position across the backline except scrumhalf. The decision by coach Dave Rennie to kept faith with young centres Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia will thrust then into the spotlight as well. Among the forwards, Allan Alaalatoa returns at tighthead prop ahead of Taniela Tupou.
For Argentina: The absence of inspirational captain Pablo Matera – over his social media posts almost a decade ago – means it is a vastly different-looking pack forwards to the one that played to a draw with the Wallabies a fortnight ago. Facundo Isa, who played at No.8 against the All Blacks last week and played off the bench against the Wallabies last month, starts on the flank in place of Marcos Kremer – who moved to lock in place of Matias Alemanno. Santiago Grondona takes Matera’s place on the blindside flank, with Jeronimo de la Fuente coming in at inside centre to take over the captaincy. Matias Alemanno comes in for Guido Petti Pagadizaval – one of the other two players suspended this week and eventually left out of the team, despite the suspension being lifted.
Head to head
Australia has lost only one of their last 10 Tests against Argentina. However, they’ll be out to avoid back-to-back winless games against them for the first time since 1987 after stalling to a 15-all draw in their last meeting (November 2020). Australia has won only one of their last six Tests heading into this fixture, with their only win in that term coming by a margin of just two points (versus New Zealand in November 2020). Australia has won both of their previous two men’s Tests played in Parramatta, including a 34-15 win over Samoa in their only previous appearance in Sydney (September 2019). Argentina has lost only one of their last four Tests against opposition from Oceania, conceding more than 15 points in a game only once in that stretch. Argentina has been kept tryless in each of their last two Tests, after having failing to score a try in just one of their 43 matches prior. The last time they went longer without a try was a three-Test span against France in 1988. Argentina has conceded just one try within the opening halves of their games during the 2020 Tri-Nations, fewer than any other team. However, their six tries conceded in their second halves of games are more than any other nation in the competition. Argentina has won the most (6.3) and conceded the fewest (11) turnovers per game in the 2020 Tri-Nations, while Australia (15) have conceded more turnovers per game than any other team. Nicolas Sanchez (Argentina) boasts a goal kicking accuracy of 85.7 percent in the 2020 Tri-Nations, the highest of any player; as a result, his tally of 40 points is the second-most of any player at the tournament. Tom Wright (Australia) has gained 9.9 metres per carry in the 2020 Tri-Nations, the most of any player to have made at least 10 carries throughout the campaign. Marcos Kremer (Argentina) has made 57 tackles throughout the 2020 Tri-Nations campaign, the most of any player, while his teammate Francisco Gomez Kodela (20/20) has made the most of any player yet to miss.
@rugby365com: Australia by 15 points
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Tom Banks.
Argentina: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Santiago Grondona, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Jose Luis Gonzalez, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Santiago Chocobares.
Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 19.45 (05.45 Buenos Aires time; 08.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Some sun, then turning cloudy and humid; breezy in the afternoon with a thunderstorm. High of 31°C and a low of 24°C
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referee: Nic Berry, Jordan Way
TMO: Damon Murphy
*Stats provided by Opta Sports