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Fri 15 Jun 2018 | 10:19

Preview: Argentina v Wales

Preview: Argentina v Wales
Fri 15 Jun 2018 | 10:19

Preview: Argentina v Wales

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JUNE INTERNATIONALS: Opportunity knocks for several Wales fringe players in Santa Fe Saturday, as the tourists seek to complete a perfect Americas adventure by defeating Argentina a second time.

Centre Owen Watkin and scrumhalf Aled Davies are among the players keen to impress coach Warren Gatland as he continues to experiment.

Many coaches basking in the glory of a 23-10 triumph over Argentina in San Juan last weekend would have given a vote of confidence to the 15 starters.

But the New Zealand-born coach is on a mission of discovery, keen to add depth to his squad ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Wales came to the Americas without some many of their big hitters and began with a 22-20 win over South Africa in wet and humid Washington.

An Argentine team stacked with Jaguares who had won six Super Rugby matches in a row were expected to bring the Welsh down to earth with a thud.

But brave defending and clinical finishing delivered a convincing victory for the visitors over the 2015 Rugby World Cup semifinalists.

“The Welsh team is in a good place,” said a proud Gatland. “We are on the right track toward the 2019 World Cup.”

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Emboldened by mastering the Pumas in San Juan, Gatland made five changes, one enforced with inside centre Hadleigh Parkes injured.

Watkin replaces Parkes and the other backline change sees Aled Davies inherit the scrumhalf shirt from Gareth Davies.

Both Watkin and Aled Davies can do their hopes of securing tickets to Tokyo a lot of good with top-class performances in Santa Fe.

In the pack, hooker Ryan Elias, tighthead prop Tomas Francis and flank Ellis Jenkins come in for Elliot Dee, Dillon Lewis and Seb Davies.

Interestingly, Gatland has gone for two openside flanks in Jenkins and James Davies, a star of the first Test.

They will form the back row with Ross Moriarty, who started in both previous Tests and made more tackles than anyone else in San Juan.

“We want to go home with three victories from three Tests,” stressed Gatland.

“But we know the challenge that we are up against this weekend and we also are looking at the bigger picture.

“We might have picked a slightly different team if it was just about results, but it is about more than that.

“It is about building for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.”

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While Wales believe they are on the right track, Argentina has lost their way with 20 losses in 26 Tests since a better-than-expected fourth place at the last World Cup in England.

Full of confidence because of the Jaguares’ form, which included a victory over twice Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs in New Zealand, they were outthought and outfought.

The old ‘Pumas’ failing of not translating pressure into points returned and clumsy handling cost them dearly a couple of times when the tryline was in sight.

Skipper and flank Pablo Matera and his fellow forwards never dominated the Welsh and looked demoralised long before the whistle sounded a final time.

However, while Gatland has changed five of a winning team, rival coach Daniel Hourcade settled for a solitary alteration to the team that ran on in San Juan.

Veteran scrumhalf Martin Landajo starts in place of Gonzalo Bertranou, who drops to the substitutes’ bench.

Hourcade, the mastermind of the 2015 World Cup campaign, will expect much more from his pack, particularly Matera, fellow flank Marcos Kremer and inspirational hooker Agustin Creevy.

Wales have won four of seven Tests in Argentina and lost three, scoring 207 points and conceding 200.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: You will look at the entire Argentinean team to see if they have a better attitude than last week. The key players in the backline are flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and scrumhalf Martín Landajo – both who had their worst games of the year. Captain Agustin Creevy will need to lead the way in terms of attitude and workload.

For Wales: Last week Ross Moriarty made 26 tackles and the No.8 will again be a vital cog. George North scored his 33rd try for Wales – drawing him level with legend Ieuan Evans. His attacking prowess puts him in the spotlight all the time.

Head to head: It all starts in the forwards – the tight forwards, that is. Last week the hosts were outplayed up front. That is why the pressure is on Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy and Santiago Garcia Botta (Argentina) to come to the party against Cory Hill, Adam Beard, Tomas Francis, Ryan Elias and Rob Evans (Wales).

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Recent results:
2018: Wales won 23-10, San Juan
2016: Wales won 40-20, Cardiff
2013: Wales won 40-6, Cardiff
2012: Argentina won 26-12, Cardiff
2011: Wales won 28-13, Cardiff
2009: Wales won 33-16, Cardiff
2007: Wales won 27-20, Cardiff
2006: Argentina won 45-27, Buenos Aires
2006: Argentina won 27-25, Patagonia
2004: Wales 35-20, Buenos Aires

Prediction: You can expect a backlash from Argentina, but if you are a betting man, put some money on Wales – who should win by seven points.

Teams:

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.

Wales: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Cory Hill (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tom Prydie.

Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Estadio Brigadier Estanislao López, Santa Fe
Kick-off: 14.40 (19.40 UK & Ireland time; 20.40 GMT)
Expected weather: A thick cloud cover, a couple of showers and a thunderstorm; cooler. High of 22°C and a low of 13°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

AFP & @rugby365com

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