Anyone who saw Argentina will have been impressed with how easily they despatched Ireland. While the reality is it was far from a full strength Ireland side, the speed and precision Argentina dismantled Ireland’s much fabled defence will left many people wondering exactly how good these Pumas are.
They shouldn’t really because anyone who saw the way they attacked South Africa in the rugby Championship will have seen this coming from a mile off. In a lot of ways Argentina remind me of France when they were good – back in the late 80’s early 90’s. Big, powerful offloading forwards who’d run through a wall at the mere sniff of getting hold of a flyhalf, and silky backs that play with pace and gusto.
The Australians on the other hand struggled. For me it was one of, if not their worst game of the year. That could be for many reasons; perhaps they were a bit over confident going into it, perhaps they were tired from two mammoth games against England and Wales? It doesn’t matter – they were way below their best, and they’ll look to dramatically improve for the semi-final.
Which leads us to this week’s video analysis.
Ahead of the game I wanted to take look at Argentina and maybe see if we can figure out the areas the Wallabies will be looking to exploit come kick off Sunday afternoon.
As mentioned before they tore Ireland a new one, but was it amazing attacking or was it poor defence? Well I think the obvious answer is “it was a bit of both”. In defence Ireland made the biggest of mistakes, backing off wide and allowing Mironi, Cordero, Cordero, Imhoff and Tuculet the space and time to run at them, instead of coming to meet them – and these boys needed no second opportunity. In attack they played far too laterally in ones and twos, allowing the Argentinean defence to fan and drift isolating them on the ground.
If we rewind a couple of weeks, to the first weekend of the tournament, the All Blacks took the game to them in defence. Got their tackle line up quickly and in unity, met them in the tackle and instead of going for turnovers just sent in two men and let them have the ball, spreading their defence across the field.
It worked, and for a couple of reasons:
- it meant they were faced with a big black jersey wall every time they looked up,
- by not competing at the breakdown Lobbe and co’s tendency to seal off against teams with a fetcher was exposed to Barnes who started whistling them backwards
New Zealand got territory at crucial times and even when Argentina got into the lead you knew the All Blacks were just going through the process of wearing them down by driving through the middle using continual pick and goes and one-off runners waiting and then exploiting the space that produced.
Everyone said they looked poor, but perhaps that’s because everyone expected the All Blacks to rip into Argentina.
They may not have dominated them but overall it was actually pretty intelligent and clinical by the Kiwis to take all the steam out of physical fired up side and then just take them apart once they were tired.
So where does that leave us ahead of the Semi final?
Well, I felt Australia were quite passive against Scotland and I think they’ll be looking to get the defensive shape from the pool stages back a solid swarming line that advances early and forces errors. In Attack they’ll be looking to take the Pumas to task and send them backwards very close to the breakdown, and like the All Blacks, narrow that big midfield defence and give Foley and Giteau the time to pass into the space this creates.
The issue is a lot of that shape comes from Pocock being in the side – so a lot of it hinges on his inclusion. We all know about his breakdown work, but he’s also a fantastic ball carrier in the close exchanges with an uncanny ability to get through the first and sometimes 2nd tackler. Him being there allows Stephen Moore to step out one and get those little offloads to a runner going and allows Hooper to get out into that 3rd Channel.
In Defence, teams don’t want to head down the close channels with Pocock there, but that means they suddenly start getting picked off by Fardy who for me has benefitted more than anyone else from having Pocock alongside him. Naturally people focus on the two opensides equation and how much Hooper benefits from having Pocock in the side, but Fardy at 6 is one of my favourite players; he’s good on the ground, good in the tackle and good on the carry.
Ultimately despite how good the Pumas back row is I still expect the Wallabies to force errors at the breakdown, build the score from that and get clear of them early in the second half. The Pumas will hold on (it’s a semi final after all), but I think the Wallabies just have too many big game players for Argentina.
So nailing my colours to the mast I expect a NZ vs Wallabies, SA to take third place.
NB: as you may hear I’ve got a stinking cold when I did the voice over, so CC’s are enabled for those struggling to hear.
Also there is an error in that I say Bosch hits Nonu then re-aligns – it’s actually Sanchez who hits Nonu, meaning Bosch is just holding his defensive width