Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Australia v Argentina - Preview

Martín Landajo starts at scrumhalf
Remarkably this Saturday´s match between Australia and Argentina is to be the first time the teams have met in nine years. Their previous encounter was played at Rugby World Cup 2003. Since then Australia has firmly stuck to an agenda of maximizing games against SANZAR and Six Nations opposition. This has seen the Wallabies face both the Springboks and the All Blacks in matches outside of the Tri Nations. In 2005, while Argentina had nobody to play against Australia and South Africa warmed up for the Tri Nations by playing extra international matches. Similarly in 2008, 2009 and 2010 there was one extra Bledisloe Cup test per year added to the schedule in an attempt of making more money. The three added tests were played in neutral locations - Hong Kong and Tokyo and saw the profits shared by the ARU and the NZRU.

From an Australian perspective the extra internationals were important and they do explain why Australia has not been going out of its way to secure matches against Argentina. Argentina is not considered marketable by the ARU, an administration run by a professional regime which has looked to capitalize on opportunities rather than make long term investments. The return of John O´Neill as the ARU´s leader saw the Australian domestic competition cancelled after one year. There is room to justify a lack of tests in Argentina but it is not sporting. It is simply because Australia can get better returns from hosting other nations and from playing internationals elsewhere. This has seen Australia play Wales outside of the IRB International windows when on end of year tours and even in World Cup years after the completion of the two previous tournaments. 

The policy has hidden a truth - Argentina are good. Los Pumas were expected by many to fail in The Rugby Championship. Yet the South Americans have drawn a match and did better against New Zealand than Australia did in the same country. All signs point to a team not only tearing up the stereotypes but also one that looks like a genuine contender to be a Rugby World Cup champion . The quick rise in respect from SANZAR fans has seen people now saying Argentina can win against the Wallabies on the Gold Coast and that indeed they should.

The ARU selected the Gold Coast as the home venue due to its size. It is the smallest venue in The Rugby Championship with a capacity of 26,00. Herein lies Australia´s long opposition to Argentina entering an expanded competition replacing the Tri Nations. The ARU were not happy to be losing a home match against either New Zealand or South Africa each year. However rugby is a global sport and not one that individual unions should be able to influence to their own advantage.

Saturday´s match will be key to the future. A Pumas win in its first season of The Rugby Championship away from home would be a massive triumph. Santiago Phelan has the players and game plan to win. Following the match in Wellington All Blacks coach, Steve Hanson, rated Argentina as one of the best defensive teams in the world. Indeed, Argentina is a hard team to break through. The problem facing Santiago Phelan is his lack of a notable goalkicker and a need to score more tries. Two key factors but Argentina can nonetheless do the job on the Gold Coast. 

Argentina has compensated for these two potential weak points by making two significant changes to the starting lineup to face the Wallabies. The attacking duo of Martín Landajo and Lucas González Amorosino will start.  Landajo is still absed in Argentina. He has emerged quickly after having been in Los Pampas XV. He has been prefered to Brive´s Agustín Figuerola and now to Nicolás Vergallo. His selection is a reflection of Argentina´s intention to take on the Australians at their own game - score tries. Landajo has a running game, unlike Vergallo who has a tactical game. Similarly, González Amorosino is a high risk fullback but one that can be very dangerous from the back.

Australia has also made changes to its team. The curse of the captaincy continues with Will Genia the lattest Wallaby captain to be ruled out for the season as he joins James Horwill and David Pocock. The loss of Genia could be key to the Wallabies as the teams second best scrumhalf will not be replacing him due to Australis rule of only selecting players baed in the country. Luke Burgess plays for Toulouse and as such is not elligible for international selection. In place of Genia will be Nick Phipps who has started previously but has struggled. Elsewhere in the team Pat McCabe returns to inside centre with Berrick Barnes moving to fullback. The move, is motivated no doubt by the Pumas game plan with Barnes being a solid player to return deep kicks while McCabe is a physical centre to take on Santi Fernández. The new Wallabies leader is Nathan Sharpe who may be nervous of joining the three previous Wallabies captains on the sidelines.

History
October 27 1979 Argentina 24-13 Australia, Buenos Aires
November 3 1979 Argentina 12-17 Australia, Buenos Aires
July 31 1983 Argentina 18-3 Australia, Brisbane
August 7 1983 Australia 29-13 Argentina , Sydney
July 6 1986 Argentina 19-39 Australia, Brisbane
July 12 1986 Australia 26-0 Argentina, Sydney
October 31 1987 Argentina 19-19 Australia, Buenos Aires
November 7 1987, Argentina 27-19 Australia, Buenos Aires
October 4 1991 Australia 32-19 Argentina, Llanelli - Rugby World Cup
April 30 1995  Australia 53-7 Argentina, Brisbane
May 6 1995 Australia 30-13 Argentina, Sydney
November 1 1997 Argentina 15-23 Australia, Buenos Aires
November 8 1997 Argentina 18-16 Australia, Buenos Aires
June 17 2000 Australia 53-6 Argentina, Brisbane
June 24 2000 Australia 32-25 Argentina, Canberra
November 2 2002 Argentina 6-17 Australia, Buenos Aires
October 10 2003 Australia 24-8 Argentina, Sydney - Rugby World Cup

Key Match Up
Australia has a notoriously weak frontrow. The props are outplayed on a regular basis at international level. Argentina has named one prop, rather than two on the bench with Marcos Ayerza missing out.  The starting combination of Rodrigo Roncero and Juan Figallo is significantly better than the Wallabies. Argentina is also better in the secondrow. The backrow is where the battle of the forwards will be. Michael Hooper v Juan Manuel Leguizamón would appear to be the most decisive of the battles but this match has more to look out for in the back line. Digby Ioane v Gonzalo Camacho is a genuine battle of top performerd from Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership. Adam Ashley-Cooper v Marcelo Bosch is a really interesting midfield clash. the unknown battle of the scrumhalves is also one to pay close attention to. However there is one match-up in this match which is above all others. The battle of Quade Cooper v Juan Martín Hernández will be decisive in how the match unfolds. They are two of the World´s best flyhalves with the Puma being the better all-round athlete. Cooper is a star attacker but a problematic defender. He will be forced to defend against the Pumas forwards who are well aware of his defensive issues.

Prediction
On form Australia has not been able to put together a solid match of rugby in the tournament. Australia has, in fact, not been good all year. While the Pumas B team defeated Italy and shared a two match series with France in June Australia lost against Scotland and was lucky to win against Wales. In The Rugby Championship so far Australia has played one good half - the second v South Africa last weekend. Australia has shown, yet again, to have good backs but problems in the forwards. Argentina´s form in the forwards has been much better and the players outside Hernández are all top performers in Europe. This is a match in which Argentina should add to its record of four wins against Australia. Argentina to win by 6.

Australia
1 Benn Robinson (Warratahs)
2 Tatafu Polota Nau (Warratahs)
3 Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
4 Kane Douglas (Warratahs)
5 Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
6 Dave Dennis (Warratahs)
7 Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
8 Radike Samo (Reds)
9 Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
10 Quade Cooper (Reds)
11 Digby Ioane (Reds)
12 Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
13 Adam Ashley-Cooper (Warratahs)
14 Dominic Shipperley (Reds)
15 Berrick Barnes (Warratahs)

Reserves
16 Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
17 James Slipper (Reds)
18 Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
19 Liam Gill (Reds)
20 Brett Sheehan (Western Force)
21 Anthony Fainga´a (Reds)
22 Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)

Argentina
1 Rodrigo Roncero (no club - to retire after The Rugby Championship)
2 Eusebio Guinãzú (no club - released by Biarritz)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (no club - released by Biarritz)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon, France)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
11 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)
12 Santi Fernández (Montpellier, France)
13 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter, England)
15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)

Reserves
16 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, France)
17 Juan Pablo Orlandi (Racing Métro, France)
18 Leonardo Senatore (Los Pampas XV)
19 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV)
20 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
21 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga (Stade Français, France)
22 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)

Rugby World Cup 2003

2 comments:

  1. Vis a vis with the Pumas.... the stars....and their constellations.... are in wonderful and interesting rugby alignment the undisputed legends of the rugby world's overachievers....making history....second place in this 4N is actually not an unrealistic result if we win Saturday....by far the biggest game of this campaign that began in Florida and has come full circle with the sounds and sights of the sea once again familiar...now in the surfing mecca of Australia's Gold Coast....this is their biggest game....what it all comes down to for me....our first 4Nations final if you like....an overall macro overview....all is just as i would like it to be....with a confident forward pack....the world's best in my humble biased opinion....with Hernandez and everyone else healthy and a few games of super rugby class competition now under them....even leguizamon ....a lot to be grateful for....Santiago Phelan has done a great job of getting them here....just go out and have fun boys....we don't focus on results anyway....but its how we play together and as a team that defines who and what this team is....and always has been....ESTO ES UN EQUIPO.... more than anything....and what i love about the Pumas ....

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