Australia, for the first time in what seem like forever, have retained the same starting XV, while Argentina are still in search of their first victory in the Rugby Championship.
After a hard start being beaten by the All Blacks in Sydney, the Aussies have been improving game by game, playing an almost perfect game in Dunedin (New Zealand) to then drawing twice against the strong South African team. The statistics are blunt, Australia has lost only once against Argentina since the Rugby Championship has started. However, the Wallabies fans are not entirely in agreement with some players picked by their head coach Michael Cheika, who insists on choosing them. Despite that, Australia is the clear favourite to win this game.
After two consecutive defeats against the South African team and a hard tour in Oceania where they were defeated by New Zealand and Australia, the team will look for its first victory. Despite all the shortcomings that the Australian team has, especially when they face their New Zealand neighbours, Argentine players have stated that because of their style of play, Australia is the most difficult team to defend against, because they have many variants in attack.
Michael Cheika has decided to keep the same starting XV that drew against South Africa in Bloemfontein, so we can interpret that the game plan will be the same. He is looking for a solid team for the 2019 World Cup, so he will keep the same ideas. The scrum has improved with Tatafu Polota-Nau, who is probably the best scrummager in Australia. The front row greatly improved their performance in the last game in Bloemfontein, so if those commanded by Mario Ledesma maintain that performance level, they should have no problems against the Argie front row that has not been strong in the scrum in recent games.
The battle of the breakdown will be important so Michael Hooper and Sean McMahon will have to help the rookie Jack Dempsey in this aspect. McMahon has been a very important player in the last games, proving to be a key piece in the pigs, therefore the Australian Rugby Union must make all the possible effort to retain him.
The backline will have two well-defined playmakers such in Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale. Furthermore, Bernard Foley has greatly improved his accuracy in goal kicking since that fateful night in Dunedin. The defense will consist of three tough tacklers in Tevita Kuridrani, Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete. Israel Folau will be the most important weapon of the team, as he has demonstrated since he arrived in Rugby Union. Folau will continue to be the X factor of this team, the ace up the sleeve, that can appear anywhere on the field to intimidate the Argentine defenders.
In the Argentine camp things have been very different. Due to the poor results, the head coach Daniel Hourcade decided to make radical changes in the team.
Tomas Lavanini and Ramiro Herrera have been left out of the squad because they both received yellow cards in the last game. The ill-discipline has been a determining factor in the defeats, for this reason, Daniel Hourcade has decided to take a strong stand in the matter and not to forgive those undisciplined players.
The front row will be the same that started the game last week against the All Blacks in Velez Sarfields Stadium: Lucas Noguera, Agustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. The second row will be completely new, with Matías Alemanno and Marcos Kremmer, the latter playing his first match as a starter.
In the back row there will be a significant change, the experienced Juan Manuel Leguizamon will leave the team to give way to Javier Ortega Desio, who will play with Pablo Matera and Tomas Lezana.
Due to the absence of Tomas Cubelli, who suffered a fracture in the fifth vertebra in the match agains the All Blacks, Martin Landajo will be the starter as a scrum half, while Gonzalo Bertranou could make his debut in the competition. Cubelli will have to undergo surgery, therefore, he is ruled out for the entire season. There is concern for Jeronimo de la Fuente, who has been feeling some pain. If there are no problems, he will start. Otherwise, Juan Martin Hernandez or Santiago González Iglesias could replace him. The other backs will be the same ones that faced the Kiwis a week ago.
KEY MATCH UPS
The breakdown: Argentina was in the breakdown in the game in Canberra during the first 40 minutes. Then the Aussies could match the Argie back row like a hurricane in the second half. If Argentines can re-dominate Aussies in this respect, they could make things difficult for them. The challenge will be to maintain that domain for over 40 minutes. The Australian team has improved in the breakdown, so it will not be easy for the Argentines to regain control.
Scrum: The Argentine scrum has been harshly criticized by their supporters, since it is an aspect that historically has been a strength of the team. The Pumas have an obligation to improve and try to subdue the Wallabies in this set piece. On the other hand, the Aussies have been solid in the last game in South Africa, led by the Argie Mario Ledesma, who sounds like a possible new coach of the Jaguars for the next Super Rugby season. This would be a hard loss for Michael Cheika’s staff, because the former Argentine hooker has done a fantastic job since being hired by the Australian Rugby Union.
Running rugby: This is one of the biggest advantages that Australia has. The Argentinians have stated that the Australian attack is at the same level as that of the All Blacks attack. They are unpredictable and can attack from anywhere. If the Aussies are on a good night, they could break the Argentine defense on several occasions with lethal men like Israel Folau and Marika Koroibete. The Pumas defense must raise its level to keep these men away from their in-goal.
The statistics do not lie, the Wallabies have played 4 times in Argentina for the Rugby Championship and only lost in one outing, therefore everything indicates that in a sport as predictable as rugby this will not change. In addition, Australia has been the only team that could be at the same level as New Zealand throughout the tournament, specifically in the second game in Dunedin.
The only hope for the Argentine side comes from the mystic side, since the only victory in the Rugby Championship against the Aussies has been in this city and in the same stadium on October 4, 2014. But the most solid arguments are favorable to the team from Australia.
Wallabies by 15
15 Israel Folau 14 Marika Koroibete 13 Tevita Kuridrani 12 Kurtley Beale 11 Reece Hodge 10 Bernard Foley 9 Will Genia 8 Sean McMahon 7 Michael Hooper (c) 6 Jack Dempsey 5 Adam Coleman 4 Izack Rodda 3 Sekope Kepu 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore 17 Tetera Faulkner 18 Allan Alaalatoa 19 Rob Simmons 20 Lukhan Tui 21 Nick Phipps 22 Samu Kerevi 23 Henry Speight
Head Coach: Michael Cheika
15 Joaquín Tuculet 14 Matías Moroni 13 Matías Orlando 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente 11 Emiliano Boffelli 10 Nicolás Sánchez 9 Martín Landajo 8 Tomás Lezana 7 Javier Ortega Desio 6 Pablo Matera 5 Matías Alemanno 4 Marcos Kremer 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro 2 Agustín Creevy (c) 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya 17 Santiago García Botta 18 Enrique Pieretto 19 Benjamín Macome 20 Leonardo Senatore 21 Gonzalo Bertranou 22 Santiago González Iglesias 23 Santiago Cordero
Head Coach: Daniel Hourcade
Date: October 7, 2017
Kick off: 19:30 AST (9:30 am Sunday AEDT, 8:30 Sunday AEST)
Stadium: Malvinas Argentinas
City: Mendoza (Argentina)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)