The following is a preview of the Round 4 Rugby Championship clash between Australia and Argentana at Subiaco Oval in Perth. The game kicks off at 8:05 PM AEST (6:05 PM local) on Saturday, the 14th of September. The referee is Nigel Owens from Wales.
Both Australia and Argentina are without a win in this year’s competition. Argentina sit above Australia on the table standings due to the bonus point they picked up in Round 2. Below are their respective results so far.
Australia 29-47 New Zealand
New Zealand 27-16 Australia
Australia 12-38 South Africa
South Africa 73-13 Argentina
Argentina 17-22 South Africa
New Zealand 28-13 Argentina
In head-to-head meetings, the Wallabies have a 14-1-4 record against the Pumas with a 9-1 record in Australia. The Wallabies have won the last six meetings, with their most recent defeat coming in 1997 in Buenos Aires. Below are the most recent results between the two sides in Australia:
2012: Australia 22-17 Argentina (Gold Coast)
2003: Australia 24-8 Argentina (Sydney)
2000: Australia 32–25 Argentina (Canberra)
2000: Australia 53-6 Argentina (Brisbane)
Will Genia has been benched with Nic White promoted for his first start at scrum-half. Regular skipper James Horwill is still nursing a hamstring injury so the captaincy has been handed to No. 8 Ben Mowen, who will be playing in only his seventh Test. Quade Cooper retains his place at fly-half despite speculation that Matt Toomua would be promoted to give the Wallabies an all-Brumbies inside back contingent of White, Toomua and Christian Leali’ifano. In the forwards, Ben Alexander gets the nod at tighthead prop ahead of Sekope Kepu. On the bench, Sitaleki Timani and Tevita Kuridrani have been added at the expense of Liam Gill and Jesse Mogg.
15. Israel Folau, 14. James O’Connor, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Christian Leali’ifano, 11. Nick Cummins, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen (captain), 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. James Slipper
Reserves: 16. Saia Fainga’a, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Sekope Kepu, 19. Sitaleki Timani, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Will Genia, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Tevita Kuridrani
The highly experienced Felipe Contepomi returns at inside centre after starting from the bench last week. He will be partnered by Gonzalo Tiesi in the centres. Winger Gonzalo Comacho is out with a dislocated shoulder so Horacio Agulla will switch wings with Juan Imhoff added to the left wing. In another change to the backs, Tomas Cubelli gets the start over Martin Landajo at scrum-half. In the forwards, Agustín Creevy comes in at hooker with Eusebio Guinazu dropping to the bench.
15. Juan Martin Hernandez, 14. Horacio Agulla, 13. Gonzalo Tiesi, 12. Felipe Contepomi, 11. Juan Imhoff, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 8. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7. Pablo Matera, 6. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5. Julio Faras Cabello, 4. Manuel Carizza, 3. Juan Figallo, 2. Agustín Creevy, 1. Marcos Ayerza
Reserves: 16. Eusebio Guinazu, 17. Nahuel Lobo, 18. Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19. Mariano Galarza, 20. Benjamin Macome, 21. Martín Landajo, 22. Santiago Fernández, 23. Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Wallabies are under immense pressure to win this fixture. While they have just one win from six this season, their five losses have come against the world’s toughest opposition: the British & Irish Lions, the All Blacks and the Springboks. Should they lose to Los Pumas, who are ranked 10th in the world, this would signal a significant drop in form for the Wallabies. A home loss to Argentina would put further pressure on Coach Ewen McKenzie, who is without a win since taking the reins from Robbie Deans.
The Wallabies look down on confidence and are lacking structure at the moment. They have made too many errors and have a tendency to spread the ball wide too soon. ARU chief Bill Pulver has expressed a desire for the Wallabies to play “smart, creative running rugby”, however some have suggested they need to simplify their game plan in order to return to winning ways. The Wallabies have won the possession count in each of their last three losses, which suggests their running and passing approach isn’t (yet) working. Ewen McKenzie said they have been guilty of putting too much emphasis on attack rather than protecting the ball, so we may see a shift in their approach on Saturday.
Given the lacklustre showings of Matt Toomua and Quade Cooper, there is a lot of discussion on who to play at fly-half, however any debate is moot until the forward pack can perform better at the breakdown. Against the Springboks Quade Cooper rarely received clean ball or forward momentum to work with. In all the Wallabies conceded 17 turnovers and 12 penalties during last week’s game. Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said “they were their own worst enemy at times. There’s no doubt they have a great backline.” Until the forward pack can sort out its problems, decisions on who to play at fly-half or where to play Israel Folau will be of lesser importance. The Wallabies were notably lacking impact forwards last week, which is a major reason for Sitaleki Timani’s recall. Granted, the Australian backs were out-played by their South African counterparts, but it’s up to the forwards to build a platform for them to play off.
The Wallabies can expect another physical contest on Saturday. They will have to front up against an abrasive, confrontational style of play, dominated by a strong forward pack. Argentina gave the All Blacks a real battle at scrum time last week, which will be a concern for the Wallabies, who have struggled to adapt to the new engagement laws. Los Pumas have stated their intention to target the Australian scrum on Saturday because it’s an area they can pick up penalties. They also see it as an important platform as well as a means of securing psychological dominance. One possible area of weakness in the Argentinian forwards is their line out, which went awry numerous times last week.
With the Wallabies conceding 41, 47 and 38 points in their last three home games, Los Pumas will feel this is an excellent chance to pick up their first ever win in the Rugby Championship. Argentina fell short by just four points this time last year, so their optimism is justified. I tip Australia to win, but I would back Argentina +11.5 at 1.91 (Sportingbet).
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