The Rugby Championship has provided a tight contest between South Africa, Australia and Argentina with these teams having 2 wins, 2 wins and 1 win respectively during the tournament. If the Wallabies defeat the Pumas and South Africa lose to the All Blacks the Wallabies would jump into second spot on the ladder. However, if the Pumas were to win with a bonus point they would leapfrog the Wallabies who would then drop to the bottom of the ladder.
The Wallabies – The Wallabies’ Rugby Championship campaign kicked off with consecutive losses to the All Blacks by 34 points and 20 points respectively. The Wallabies were able to come from behind to defeat South Africa by 6 points and then had a home win v the Pumas by 16 points after a strong start. Last week’s trip to Loftus Versfeld resulted in an 8 point loss to Springboks despite the Wallabies scoring one try to nil.
The Pumas –had two close matches against South Africa with a 7 point loss in the Republic and a 2 point win at home. This was followed up by away loses to the All Blacks by 35 points and to the Wallabies by 16 points. The Pumas got within 19 points of the All Blacks last week but this scoreline flattered the Pumas after the All Blacks led 36-3.
Michael Cheika has had to name his third different number 8 in as many matches after losing David Pocock and Sean McMahon to injury in consecutive matches. McMahon has been replaced by his Melbourne Rebels teammate and wrecking ball Lopeti Timani. Timani will playing just his second test and making his run on debut. Cheika sent an SOS to Leroy Houston who has been on loan to Bath. Houston has been named on an extended bench and is a chance to make his debut and become Wallaby number 901.
Rob Simmons has been axed from the match day squad for the third time in 2016. Rory Arnold has replaced Simmons in the starting lineup. It will be the 7th lock combination used by the Wallabies this year so Cheika definitely doesn’t have the key to that lock.
For the Pumas Leonardo Senatore replaces first-choice number eight Facundo Isa, who hasn’t recovered in time from a leg injury sustained against the All Blacks in Buenos Aires. In the only other change to the pack, Lucas Noguera takes over from Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro at loosehead prop.
In the back-line, Matías Moroni comes in for Santiago Cordero on the right wing and Manuel Montero replaces Ramiro Moyano in the number 11 jersey. Montero and fly-half Nicolás Sánchez will both face late fitness Tests before the match and may yet be replaced.
KEY MATCHUPS / THINGS TO WATCH FOR
Halves Will Genia & Quade Cooper v Nicolas Sanchez & Martin Landajo: Both combinations has spent plenty of time together with Genia and Cooper being old teammates at the Reds and Sanchez and Landajo honing their combination at Los Jaguares all year. Both combinations have creativity and brilliance but sometimes with creativity and brilliance the rewards can increase but so can the risks.
Number Eights Lopeti Timani v Leonardo Senatore: Timani will start for the first time for the Wallabies while Leonardo Senatore hasn’t started for the Pumas this year being behind Facundo Isa in the pecking order. Both players will have something to prove. Cheika will be expecting hard running and hard tackling from Timani, which is what he does for the Rebels, and trust that the big fellow can pick the ball up from the scrum cleanly. Senatore had a good season for Los Jaguares but the Pumas will miss the injured Isa who in the previous 5 games has made 361 metres, 8 offloads, 8 clean breaks and beaten 19 defenders. Senatore definitely has big shoes to fill.
Running the ball: Three Pumas forwards have run the ball 50 or more times during the tournament Isa 85, Matera 57, Creevy 50. So expect more hard running from these players. No Aussie forward can match that and Folau just squeaks in at 50.
Missed tackles: The three players in the competition with the most missed tackles are Bernard Foley 14, Dane Haylett-Petty 13 and Dean Mumm 11. So expect the hard running Argentines to be running plenty of traffic in the direction of these players.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Wallabies flew out of the blocks in Perth with tries to Kerevi, Haylett-Petty and Genia to take a 21-nil lead after 12 minutes.
Los Pumas threw everything at the Wallabies after that and on a couple of instances looked like getting back in the contest but the damage had been done and the Wallabies were able to take out the match by 16 points.
As no team other than the undefeated All Blacks has won away from home the Pumas would normally be favourites for this match. However, this match is being played at the “neutral” venue Twickenham. So there will be plenty of gold in the crowd with all the Aussie expats in London but any local fans will be supporting the Pumas.
One of these teams will be the first, other than the All Blacks, to win a match outside their home country during the 2016 Rugby Championship (unless they have a draw).
Argentina are aiming for the second win of the tournament which would be the first time they have had won twice in the same Rugby Championship.
From reading my tea leaves (not that I actually drink tea), I can see a Wallabies side that is ripe for the picking.
As a consequence my tip is: Los Pumas by 5 points.
Wallabies: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore C, 1 Scott Sio
Bench (one to be omitted): James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Leroy Houston, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefanaia Naivalu
Pumas (To be confirmed pending late fitness tests for Montero and Sanchez): 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera
Bench: Julian Montoya, Santiago García Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomás Cubelli, Jerónimo De la Fuente/Gabriel Ascarate, Ramiro Moyano/Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Match Argentina v Australia @ Twickenham, London
Date Saturday 8 October 2016Kick-Off 19:30 local; 18:30 GMT, 20:30 SAST, (*05:30 AEST, 07:30 NZST)
Referee Mathieu Raynal
AR1 JP Doyle
AR2 Matthew Carley
TMO Rowan Kitt
* Due to time difference – Kick-off Sunday 9 October