Argentina v Australia - Teams and Prediction
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND SIX: The Wallabies are bracing for an emotion-charged Argentina outfit as they look to win an unprecedented fourth successive Rugby Championship Test on Saturday.
The Pumas lost six players ahead of the Gold Coast clash, including former captain and world-class flank Pablo Matera, after they were locked out of Queensland following a day-trip across the border to Byron Bay.
It capped a tough tournament for the winless Argentine side, who were unable to play any matches at home, while coach Mario Ledesma said his side felt disrespected when a promotional photo for the four-nations tournament went ahead without their captain.
Australia outclassed the Pumas last round 27-8, however Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper was wary after their under-strength opponents rallied to a final round draw last year.
“We know that Argentina will bounce back,” Hooper said on Friday.
“There’s a little bit going on there, full of emotion, and they will want to improve on their last game.
“There’s going to be a fair bit of emotion kicking off in this game, as we’ve seen in games like last year in a similar circumstance, so we’ve got to be on our game.”
*Article continues below…
Hooper said his team would try to put the blinkers on and focus on delivering a complete 80-minute performance, which they haven’t managed through the tournament.
“What has been pleasing is I think we’re starting to gain some momentum now,” the 29-year-old said.
“We’re talking about things during the week and executing them on the field; we’re still chasing that really solid 80 minute performance, and being extra clinical with that.
“Four weeks ago we were three losses on the trot so it hasn’t been a perfect run by any stretch and we’re not nailing things, there’s so much improvement and growth in us and we’ve got to stay focused on that.
“There’s always a goal to work toward.”
Two familiar faces return via the bench with backrow Sean McMahon playing his first Test in almost four years while 38-year-old prop Greg Holmes is poised to become the oldest Wallabies player to appear in a Test since WWII.
Flank Hooper said he was excited to have the physical presence and work-rate of McMahon back in the line-up as they chase four consecutive Test matches wins for the first time since 2017.
“In 2017 he was playing a lot of No.8 and I enjoyed that combination with him,” Hooper said.
“I think he brings a really good dynamic to the team in the form of real aggression and just a super work-rate on the bloke.
“He’s been training really hard off the field in the last couple of weeks and he’s a great larrikin in the team as well.
“His enthusiasm to be in Wallaby gold has really been noticeable and it’s great to have him back.”
— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 27, 2021
The Big six
Ledesma was reluctant to publicly condemn the six players and two staff members, but said everyone knew the rules.
“We will talk about that when the tournament is finished. Now it’s time for rugby,” he said on a zoom call.
“The rules were clear for everybody. It was a day off, they made that decision and the situation is what it is.”
Sebastian Cancelliere, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, and Santiago Socino were the other players involved.
Argentina have lost all five of their tournament games so far and Ledesma insisted their focus was entirely on trying to beat hosts Australia before they return home after a long and gruelling tour.
“What I can tell you is that we put our minds into the solution, not the problem,” he said when asked what he felt after learning the players were stuck in New South Wales.
“We started thinking ‘who’s going to replace this player or that player? How are we going to prepare the boys to have the best game that they can and close the Rugby Championship like they deserve?’
“Our mind was put immediately into the focus on rugby and to prepare as best as possible.”
Ledesma has drafted in Enrique Pieretto to replace Medrano and Rodrigo Bruni for Matera among five changes to the run-on side.
Skipper Julian Montoya echoed his coach in saying they were only focused on ending a disappointing tournament on a high.
“We don’t have excuses. We don’t have shortcuts. We don’t believe in that,” he said.
“We are training so hard in this Rugby Championship for so long, so I think we deserve to have the game that we want to have.”
Players to watch
For Argentina: Mario Ledesma has drafted Enrique Pieretto to replace Santiago Medrano and Rodrigo Bruni for Pablo Matera among five changes to the run-on side. The duo have big shoes to fill, however, they have a perfect platform to make a name for themselves. Skipper Julian Montoya is a workhorse and very passionate. He will definitely be a handful at the set-pieces. In the backline, Emiliano Boffelli is another player that will be a headache for the Wallabies following his outing last week.
For Australia: Jordan Petaia’s efforts will be under the microscope when the Wallabies wing attempts to fill the void left by Marika Koroibete in his Test return against Argentina. His fellow wing Andre Kellaway has been in fine form, scoring a try in almost every match. As per usual Quade Cooper, who has played a big role in Australia’s success, will again have a spotlight on him on Saturday. Captain Michael Hooper has been playing out of his skin in recent weeks and he will look to disrupt Argentina’s ball at the breakdowns.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Australia by 15 points.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Rodrigo Martinez.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Mateo Carreras.
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Pete Samu, 5 Darcy Swain, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Jack Gordon, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Tom Wright.
Date: Saturday, October 2
Venue: Robina Stadium, Gold Coast
Kick-off: 17.05 (04.05 ART; 07.05 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy but warm with a high of 27°C and a low of 15°C.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (AUS), Reuben Keane (AUS)
TMO: Brett Cronan (AUS)
AAP & @rugby365com
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports