Round two of The Rugby Championship heads back to Australia where the Wallabies hosting the Pumas at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. Both sides will be looking for their first win of 2019, as they look to brush off loses against South Africa and New Zealand respectively.
Argentina will come into this match confident of causing an upset against a shaky Wallabies side, having taken the All Blacks down to the wire in Buenos Aires. The Wallabies head back to fortress Suncorp after an ill-disciplined loss against South Africa and will be looking to get revenge for their shocking loss to the Pumas last year on the Gold Coast.
The Wallabies are coming off a disappointing start to their 2019 campaign, losing 35-17 to the Springboks at Ellis Park. Whilst there were some positives to take out of the contest, the Wallabies were hampered once again by poor discipline in key moments and a lack of execution.
They need to find the determination and grit that they showed in their last game against Argentina, where they came back from a 24-point comeback to win 45-34 if they wish to get their Rugby World Cup campaign back on track.
The Pumas showed some promise in their opening match of the Championship, narrowly going down 20-16 to New Zealand. They had an opportunity to win the game at the death from a 5m lineout, however, they could not find a way past the black wall to secure their first win over the All Blacks.
The loss continues the struggles that have plagued the Pumas, having not won an international match in 10 months. However, they will take full confidence in the fact that it came against the Wallabies at CBUS Stadium, just one hour up from where they will play on Saturday.
The Wallabies have made five changes to the side that lost against the Springboks, highlighted by the return of Christian Lealiifano. Lealiifano slots into fly-half in place in Bernard Foley, which caps his remarkable return to rugby since he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016.
He is joined in the new-look backline by Marika Korobiete, who returns after the birth of his child, replacing Dane Haylett-Petty along with Kurtley Beale, who has been promoted from the bench in place of Tom Banks. James O’Connor also marks his return to the Wallabies, with the outside back set to for his first cap since 2013 via the bench.
In further news, Scott Sio has recovered from injury and take his place in the starting lineup, pushing James Slipper to the bench and Harry Johnson-Holmes to the Lord Dudley Hotel whilst Luke Jones replaces Jack Dempsey on the bench.
The Pumas have also made five changes after their narrow loss to the All Blacks, headlined by the returns of overseas-based duo Facundo Isa and Santiago Cordero. The Toulon based Isa is set for his first cap since 2016, replacing Javier Ortega Desio at number 8, whilst Exeter Cordero slots onto the wing which pushes Matias Moroni into outside centre and relegates Matias Orlando to the bench.
In other changes, Julian Montoya replaces the inspirational Agustin Creevy at hooker with Tomas Lezana starting ahead of Marcos Kremer at Lock and fullback Joaquin Tuculet coming in for the rested Emiliano Boffelli.
Pablo Matera vs Michael Hooper
Whilst both players will not necessarily line up against each other, this will be a huge matchup for both leaders, particularly Hooper. The match-up is almost Cheika’s version of expectations vs reality, with Matera establishing himself as one of the best flankers in the world over the past month. Matera was brilliant last week for Pumas, capping off his impressive month where he was named man of the match in the Jaguares Grand Final loss to the Crusaders.
Matera has stepped up to a level that Hooper has failed to maintain for both club and country across the past twelve months. Hooper needs to step up as the captain to lead his side out of the slump that they’ve found themselves and he must tackle his heart out to spot the likes of Maters and Petti. With the return of David Pocock impending, Hooper needs to have a huge game to cement his spot in the starting 15, along with diminishing the impact of Matera if the Wallabies wish to control the contest.
Kurtley Beale vs Joaquin Tuculet
Both players step back into the starting line-up looking to once again cement themselves as the premier fullback for their respective countries. Beale was one of the bright spots of the Wallabies loss to the Springboks, looking like the Kurtley of old (aka Joeys Kurtley), setting up their second try of the match. However, he has struggled in the past with maintaining this level over 80 minutes, often showing a glimpse of promise before seemingly disappearing mid-match. He needs to step up and show he can take over a game for 80 minutes if he wishes to snatch the starting role from Tom Banks, who arguably didn’t do much wrong before he was replaced.
Tuculet made his return to the Pumas line-up via the interchange bench last week, having not featured since November 2017 against Ireland. Since his last start, times have changed with Emiliano Boffelli stepping up and making that fullback position his own. I think the influence of Boffelli on Argentina is highly under-rated, where he was one of their best throughout the Super Rugby season and in their loss last week. Tuculet needs to step up and command plenty of ball throughout the match and if he can find space early, it could be a long night for the Wallabies.
Numbers that matter (Thanks to Opta Sports)
89%:The Wallabies record against the Pumas, having won 12 out of their last 14 encounters
72.7%: The winning record of the Wallabies when they have played at Suncorp Stadium, winning their last 5 games.
13%: The record of the Pumas when they have played away in their last 15 games, having won just 2 matches
7: The average winning margin of the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium in their last 6 matches.
September 8, 2018: The last time either team won an international match over a top 10 ranked team: Wallabies 23-18 over South Africa
24%: The combined international winning record of Australia and Argentina over the past 12 months.
Despite their impressive performance against the All Blacks, I think that this will be the bounce-back game for the Wallabies. The absence of Boffelli and Creevy will be tough to replace for a Pumas side that won’t be lifted by their rabid fans like last week. The All Blacks found plenty of success through the middle of the park and I think the combination of Kerevi and Kuridrani will have a field day. The inclusion of Korobiete helps quell the pace issues that plagued the side last week, whilst the return of Lealiifano should provide enough motivation for the Wallabies to get the victory.
Match Prediction: Wallabies by 10
Bold Prediction: Kerevi and Kuridrani 2+ tries
Wallabies (15-1): Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper (c), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio
Reserves: Tolu Latu, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Luke Jones, Nic White, Matt Toomua, James O’Connor
Pumas (15-1): Joaquin Tucelet, Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli, Facundo Isa, Tomas Lezana, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavinini, Guido Petti, Juan Figallo, Julian Montoya, Nahuel Tatez Chaparro
Reserves: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Ramiro Herrera, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Felipe Ezcurra, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Matias Orlando
Date: Saturday, July 27th
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 7:55pm AEDT
Where to Watch: Channel 10 on FTA and Fox Sports 6 (Channel 506) for Foxtel.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
AR1: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
AR2:Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO:Ben Skeen (New Zealand)