Preview: Argentina v Australia

Date published: October 4 2013

Humbled at Newlands last weekend, Australia arrive in Rosario at their lowest to face a hungry Argentina.

Humbled at Newlands last weekend, Australia arrive in Rosario at their lowest to face a hungry Argentina.

The Wallabies were out of the match after only 20 minutes against South Africa in Cape Town, slumping to their fourth defeat in five matches under new boss Ewen McKenzie since he arrived at the helm.

Those other defeats have included shipping 112 points in their first three matches of this year's Rugby Championship, 85 of those coming on home soil.

McKenzie has had plenty to despair about since taking over, but defence must sit top of the pile.

Two tries in three minutes killed Australia at Newlands. They were 20-3 down after as many minutes.

Competing away from home is hard enough against the Springboks, but their task became insurmountable after such an appalling opening quarter.

Argentina, who usually get off to fast starts, will be sniffing that early complacency.

The chances of a first victory for the Pumas are better than ever. Again they made New Zealand sweat, this time in La Plata, before the world champions underlined their class by breaking away in the second half.

Once more though, the All Blacks' scrum was harried. Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks were both penalised on two occasions as rising star Juan Figallo combined with Marco Ayerza to cause New Zealand problems.

James Slipper and Ben Alexander will be braced for an onslaught and rightly so, because the Argentinan eight have generated an impressive number of penalties for the boots of Nicolás Sanchez and Marcelo Bosch in recent weeks.

Except Figallo will not be present on Saturday. The tighthead has been the star number three in the world over the last few months, making his absence an enormous blow to the Pumas prospects. Juan Pablo Orlandi is an able replacement, but without Figallo a proven spark has gone from that Argentinian front eight.

So much of Saturday's match depends on how Australia rise to the physical challenge laid down by their hosts.

James Horwill's despondent expression in the Newlands press conference was the haunted look of a man whose team had not just been thoroughly played off the park, but appeared to be lacking desire and purpose.

Horwill's influence on this Wallaby team is enormous – the threat of his absence for the second Test against the British and Irish Lions caused a fit of hysteria.

What he needs are generals around him to stand up. Stephen Moore and Slipper, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy and Ben Mowen – the work-rate from those five individuals is essential in order to allow Michael Hooper to attack the breakdown.

Too often in this tournament the Wallabies seem to have missed direct runners through the midfield, over-relying on Israel Folau. The likes of Mowen and Horwill have to carry more down the central channels to get Australia behind the Pumas defence and give Christian Lealiifano, Tevita Kuridrani and the rest enough space to create chances.

Argentina on the other hand have been able to get over that advantage line through their big runners – Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Patricio Albacete and Juan Manuel Leguizamon – but have lacked the precision in the backs to feed Juan Imhoff and Horacio Agulla out wide.

Should those loose passes start clicking then Argentina have the ability to rack up a sizeable score. Australia come into this one with their pride at stake and reputation dented, but the real pressure is on Argentina.

The Pumas have never had a better opportunity to pick up that elusive first win in The Rugby Championship. If not now – at home, against the struggling Wallabies – then when?

Ones to Watch:

For Argentina: A salute to the outstanding Felipe Contepomi. One of Argentina's greatest ever players, alongside Agustin Pichot and Hugo Porta, the 36-year-old bows out on Saturday after a glittering career. Contepomi has turned out for Bristol, Leinster, Toulon and Stade Français and retires with 87 caps over the course of 17 years to his name. A true legend of the sport who will be fondly remembered across the globe.

For Australia: Recalled after his bright cameo in the second half in Cape Town, Will Genia has won back the number nine shirt from Nic White. Rekindling his half-back partnership with Reds team-mate Quade Cooper, Genia's running game around the fringes can test the Pumas defence, which began to falter in the second half. When the gaps appear, Genia is the man to cause damage.

Head to Head: Two flankers that are set to go up against each other for years to come. Pablo Matera has enjoyed a promising first campaign from the U20 side, playing alongside two talented veterans in Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamón. Matera has shown no hesitation in making his physical presence known around the breakdown. Michael Hooper on the other hand is no newcomer. The 21-year-old with 21 caps to his name has enjoyed an extended run in the number seven jersey with the absence of David Pocock. His yellow card against South Africa was unfortunate, but Australia need him on the field ready for a scrap.

Previous results:

2013: Australia won 14-13 in Perth
2012: Australia won 25-19 in Rosario
2012: Australia won 23-19 on Gold Coast
2003: Australia won 24-8 in Sydney
2002: Australia won 17-6 in Buenos Aires
2000: Australia won 32-25 in Canberra
2000: Australia won 53-6 in Brisbane

Prediction: Argentina simply have to win this. Their progress, which has been substantial, deserves a reward. The Wallabies need an easy fixture to get back on track, and this is not it. Argentina by 5!

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Julio Farias Cabello, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Matias Diaz, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Benjamn Macome, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Fernandez, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Bernard Foley.

Date: Saturday, October 5
Kick-off: 19:40 (23:40 BST, 22:40 GMT)
Venue: Gigante de Arroyito Stadium, Rosario
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper, Greg GarnerTMO: Ben Skeen

by Ben Coles