Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wales v Argentina Preview

Felipe Contepomi and Jamie Roberts to meet again.
The match has been talked of as a key one with an eye to Rugby World Cup 2015. Not because the teams will meet at the tournament but because of the upcoming draw which will be made for the 2015 tournament in December. The seeding system in which the twelve automatic qualifying nations are ranked could have tremendous implications on the draw. Wales are currently 6th and Argentina 8th. Neither side can be guaranteed of finishing in the Top 8 and a fall for either to 9th or lower could mean the difference between a friendly draw for 2011 and a significantly more difficult one. Both captains have talked about rankings and both know of the possibilities. It is being placed in the back of the minds however. The task is simple - win the game as the rest cannot be determined by either side. Ireland, for instance, is ranked higher but could fall with a loss to South Africa. Before Argentina and Wales is Scotland which is unlikely to win as it is facing New Zealand.

Both coaches have made some interesting selection for this match. Welsh interim coach, Rob Howley has gone for Tavis Knoyle at scrumhalf over Mike Phillips. The reason being that Knoyle is based in Wales and Phillips in France. This meant Knoyle was avaliable for a training camp in Poland while Phillips was on club duty. The decision has, nonetheless been criticized by many Welsh supporters on rugby forums. Other selections have also not proven to be popular. The Frenhc based James Hook will not start at all. He had been talked about as the starting flyhalf or outside centre given the form of the Scarlets pair of Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams. But, like Phillips, Hook will be on the bench. Two other notable selections sees Josh Turnbull and Aaron Jarvis start. Turnbull wil play in place of the injured Dan Lydiate while Jarvis will make his international debut in place of the world class Adam Jones. The team is otherwise similar to that from the Six Nations earlier in 2012.Howley has named only one French based player in the starting lineup. He has named fourteen based in Wales with Gethin Jenkins now playing for Toulon. Curiously Jenkins´s replacement is Paul James is also not playing in Wales. The Bath based prop is the only English based player in the match day 23. The lack of interest in starting foreign based players has supporters and opposition with the traditionalists seemingly of the view that players in Wales should be preferred to those based abroad. 

Getting players released has proven to be a problem and Santiago Phelan knows too well what it is like. The UAR struck a deal with French clubs so that no more than two per club would be playing against Wales this weekend. It was made due to the Top 14 which will feature round 11 this weekend. Phelan had to change his plans after he had selected both Marcelo Bosch and Francisco Gómez Kodela to face Wales. The Biarritz pair will not play however as both will be a part of the team to face Perpignan this Saturday. In their place Phelan recalled Felipe Contepomi and Juan Gómez as a host other other French based players will also be on club duty. Toulouse v Montpellier on Friday will involve Lucas González Amorosino, Maximilano Bustos, Santiago Fernández, Nahuel Lobo and Martín Bustos Moyano. Either Bosch or Fernández would otherwise start ahead of Contepomi. Gómez´s inclusion is the most interesting however. Not only will Gómez Kodela be playing club rugby but so will Bustos, Lobo and Juan Pablo Orlandi. Four other squad members will miss the match against Wales. 

Phelan has nonetheless named a vastly changes side to that which played throughout The Rugby Championship. He is looking to play a different style of rugby. Some would say it is overdue as Argentina under his leadership has eleven victories and twenty-one loses. The team struggled to score tries in the 2008-2011 period but has so far looked better in 2012. The selection of Juan Imhoff is a key component to Argentina´s chances. He is the country´s leading threat and has been underused, particularly in 2012. With Juan Martín Herández returning to fullback and a halves combination of Martín Landajo and Nicolás Sánchez selected there is room to suggest that Los Pumas will be quite a different side to the one that last played against Wales. The grunt remains in the forwards with Marcos Ayerza and Juan Figallo being amongst the best props in England and France. The secondrow has two players with high tackling workrates and the backrow could be more mobile than traditionally.  Wales without Lydiate will need more out of captain Sam Warburton and colleague Toby Faletau. 

The teams have met sixteen times before. Wales has the upper hand with ten wins while Argentina has won five and there has been one draw. The first match took place in 1968 in Buenos Aires with Los Pumas winning 9-5. They have met twice in Rugby World Cup´s with Wales winning both matches. Argentina´s only victory against Wales in Wales was in 2001 with Felipe Contepomi scoring 25 points.The msot recent match was a warm-up fixture for Rugby World Cup 2011 with Wales winning 28-13. Wales are on a three match winning streak with Argentina´s last win coming in 2006. On that occassion Federico Ninja Todeschini scored thirty points. The previous three matches have all been played in Cardiff.

September 14 1968 Argentina 9-5 Wales, Buenos Aires
September 28 1968 Argentina 9-9 Wales, Buenos Aires
October 16 1976 Wales 20-19 Argentina, Cardiff
October 09 1991 Wales 16-7 Argentina, Cardiff (RWC)
November 21 1998 Wales 43-30 Argentina, Llanelli
June 05 1999 Argentina 36-26 Wales, Buenos Aires
June 12 1999 Argentina 23-16 Wales, Buenos Aires
October 01 1999 Wales 23-18 Argentina, Cardiff (RWC)
November 10 2001 Wales 16-30 Argentina, Cardiff
June 12 2004 Argentina 30-16 Wales, Tucumán
June 19 2004 Argentina 35-20 Argentina, Buenos Aires
June 11 2006 Argentina 27-25 Wales, Puerto Madryn
June 17 2006 Argentina 45-27 Wales, Buenos Aires
August 18 2007 Wales 27-20 Argentina, Cardiff
November 21 2009 Wales 33-16 Argentina, Cardiff
August 20 2011 Wales 28-15 Argentina, Cardiff

Key Match-Up
Gethin Jenkins v Juan Figallo is a battle of two of the World´s best props. Alyn Wyn Jones v Manuel Carizza is another noticable battle in the tight five. Both plaeyrs are extremely important to their teams and are world class performers. They are supported by lesser known players in Ian Evans and Julio Farías Cabello and, interestingly, both have played in the backrow for their nations. Both teams have two world class backrowers starting who are big name players. It is the lesser known from each side, however, that could be key with Josh Turnbull v Leonardo Senatore being a matchup that will be key to support the work of the others. But this match should see both teams playing with plenty of width and, as such, the most important match-up should not only be in the backs but it should be outwide. Alex Cuthbert v Juan Imhoff is a clash of two of the great finishers in European club rugby. Both are young and could potentially be amongst the biggest stars in global rugby come Rugby World Cup 2015. 

Argentina has had problems facing Wales in recent times due to a restricted game plan that has been the consequence of a number of factors, notably a lack of game time together. In 2012, however, Argentina has played in The Rugby Championship and the coaching staff have been afforded unheard of opportunities in terms of time to spend with the players. Argentina should use this to its advantage by being a much superior side in terms of organization and it should also have a better game plan to combat Wales´s expansive strategy. Wales are the European Champions, having won the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam. Argentina, in contrast debuted in The Rugby Championship with a record of one draw and five loses. No doubt it should have been two wins. Wales therefore enter as favorites but this match can go either way. Argentina´s time together from July-October could be crucial. Argentina to win by 4 points.

Gethin Jenkins, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Aaron Jarvis
(Toulon, FRA), (Scarlets, WAL), (Ospreys, WAL)
Alyn Wyn-Jones, 5 Ian Evans 
(Ospreys, WAL), (Ospreys WAL)
Josh Turnbull, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton
(Scarlets, WAL), (Dragons, WAL), (Cardiff Blues, WAL)

Tavis Knoyle, 10 Rhys Priestland
(Scarlets, WAL), (Scarlets, WAL)
12 Jamie Roberts, 13 Scott Williams
(Cardiff Blues, WAL), (Scarlets, WAL)
11 George North, 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert
(Scarlets, WAL), (Ospreys, WAL), (Cardiff Blues, WAL)

16 Richard Hibbard (Ospreys, WAL)
17 Ryan Bevington (Ospreys, WAL)
18 Paul James (Bath, ENG)
19 Rob McCusker (Scarlets, WAL)
20 Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, WAL)
21 Mike Phillips (Bayonne, FRA)
22 James Hook (Perpignan, FRA)
23 Liam Williams (Scarlets, WAL)

Marcos Ayerza, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 3 Juan Figallo
(Leicester Tigers, ENG), Southern Kings, (RSA) Montpellier (FRA)
Manuel Carizza, 5 Julio Farías Cabello
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
Leonardo Senatore, 8 Juan M F Lobbe, 7 Juan M Leguizamón
(Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Toulon, FRA), (Lyon OU, FRA)

Martín Landajo, 10 Nicolás Sánchez
(Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Bordeaux-Begles, FRA)
12 Felipe Contepomi, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi
(Stade Français, FRA), (SIC, ARG)
11 Juan Imhoff , 15 Juan M Hernández, 14 Gonzalo Camacho
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Racing Métro, FRA), (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)

16 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, FRA)
17 Bruno Postiglioni (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
18 Juan Gómez (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
19 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Scarlets, WAL)
20 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
21 Nicolás Vergallo (Southern Kings, RSA)
22 Horacio Agulla (Bath, ENG)
23 Joaquín Tuculet (Grenoble, FRA)

Wales v Argentina, RWC 1991

Argentina v Wales, 1999

Wales v Argentina, RWC 1999

Wales v Argentina, 2009

Wales v Argentina, 2011


  1. Wales certainly DO NOT have an expansive strategy. With the exception of North who despite his size can be jinky. The entire Welsh backline just runs straight.

    Knoyle - mini Mike Phillips.
    Priestland - terrible form
    Roberts, Cuthbert, Williams, Halfpenny - just run hard and straight. Scott Williams is also can't pass. If Contepomi/Tiesi are on good tackling form, then Argentina should be able to nullify them.

    North is the only player for Argentina to really fear in attack. Cuthbert has also been in good form at club level.

    Wales have some notable weaknesses in this side.

    Gethin Jenkins is on terrible form for Toulon and Aaron Jarvis is on debut and doesn't have the support of an on form scrummaging loosehead. So the scrum could be a weak area for Wales.

    Also the half backs. Priestland's tactical kicking has been dire of late. He's basically been living off his good RWC and got progressively worse ever since. Knoyle also has question marks around him.

    Finally Turnbull is a weak link in the Wales back row.

    I think if Argentina can get their kicks in this match, they will win. However the kicking issue is a big if.

    Do you have any clue as to who is likely to be the goal kicker?

  2. Phelan is yet to confirm the goalkicker. Yesterday he said that the coaches would be looking at Hernández, Contepomi and Sánchez today to make a decision.

    Sánchez is the best choice because, although Contepomi has the experience, he will have a heavy workload marking Jamie Roberts. Plus, Contepomi is on his last legs.