Preview: Argentina v Australia

Date published: July 24 2015

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It will be comeback time in Mendoza on Saturday when Argentina host Australia on the second weekend of the Rugby Championship.

Pumas winger Gonzalo Camacho will be playing his first game of any kind in nearly two years, while Greg Holmes returns from the international wilderness for a first start in eight years.

For Camacho, it's been a long, arduous road to finally shake off a shoulder injury he picked up in September 2013. The dislocation ended up requiring three operations, and he has still not played for his club Leicester, with whom he signed two years ago.

It's a testament to how highly Daniel Hourcade rates Camacho, that he is straight back in the team without having to prove himself, but it's easy to forget just what an elusive runner he can be.

While not the most prolific winger Argentina have produced, the 30-year-old's return comes at the right time, after Manuel Montero suffered a torn ACL, and Horacio Agulla looked off the pace against the All Blacks.

On the other side of the pitch, doing a very different job, will be tighthead prop Holmes, who gets the nod after impressing off the bench last week.

It's not been a question of injury for the 32-year-old, who was cast aside after the 2007 World Cup, as he has fought his way back into contention with some big performances for the Reds in Super Rugby.

One of the few bright points in a dismal season, he kept the Brisbane side competitive in the scrum, and showed that side of his game against South Africa, getting the edge in the set-piece after Sekope Kepu had struggled.

It's fitting reward for the hard-working Holmes, who has spent his entire career in Australia, rather than heading overseas when it looked like he wouldn't ever get recalled.

Beyond the two returning players, to which we can add David Pocock, starting for the first time since 2012, it's important to bear in mind the contrast in style of the two teams, with Argentina registering their first Rugby Championship win in this fixture last season.

The Pumas failed to gain the ascendancy in the scrum against New Zealand, and a similar result he would be catastrophic for their chances of winning the game.

Australia generally struggled up front against South Africa, but seemed to finish the stronger, while Argentina never really threatened the All Blacks after the first 30 minutes.

Michael Cheika has gone with form over reputation, with Waratahs duo Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley replacing Will Genia and Quade Cooper, while Pocock's impact off the bench last week has deservedly been rewarded.

The team might not be quite as dynamic as the one that faced the Springboks, but they should be more accurate, and in Foley and Toomua, have a little more control with ball in hand.

Argentina are still testing players, with Juan Martin Hernandez not yet deemed ready to feature, but the return of Tomas Lavanini up front means that it should be more or less a first choice front five.

The Pumas hopes might come down to whether they can get on top of Holmes, but the way their replacement front-row struggled last week is a definite concern, given how important scrum dominance is in their game plan.

Australia shouldn't cause many problems in that area, but the lack of experience on the Pumas bench could end being costly in Mendoza.

Players to watch: With all the changes in the Argentina backline, the return of Juan Imhoff at least offers some experience in the three-quarters. The Racing winger is one of the most graceful runners in the world game, with an ability to glide through tackles, but has flattered to deceive at times over the last couple of seasons. Australia should kick a little more than they did last week, so he may well get a chance to run, especially with the dangerous Santiago Cordero shifting to full-back to offer him counter-attacking support.

Up front the return of Tomas Lavanini will do the Pumas a lot of good, with the young second-row now a key part of the Argentine pack. A rugged, physical presence, he has something of Eben Etzebeth in him, both in his ability to physically dominate his opponent, and the way he can get inside their heads. His battle with Will Skelton should be fascinating.

For the Wallabies, the importance David Pocock's return cannot be overstated, and the way he turned the tide at the breakdown off the bench last week showed why he must start for Australia. Michael Hooper is an excellent linking back-rower, but realistically he needs to either start alongside Pocock, or settle for a role off the bench. The Brumbies flanker provides greater physicality, and is unmatched when it comes to his work on the floor.

Nick Phipps is also rewarded for his display as a replacement last week, and Cheika will be hoping for more of the fizzing passes that characterised his display against South Africa. While he can occasionally get caught up creating and looking for trouble with the opposition, Phipps showed last week that when he is on form, he can speed up the Australian game in a way that Will Genia has failed to do over the last two seasons. He might not have the reputation, but a good performance here should secure a starting role for the World Cup.

Head-to-head: The midfield battle between Juan Pablo Socino and Matt Toomua will pit a late-blooming Test debutant up against a playmaker trying to nail down a starting spot. Now 27 years old, Socino has had to bide his time, spending a number of seasons in the English second flight before getting a chance with Newcastle in the Premiership this year. Capable of playing fly-half or inside centre, he will offer a secondary kicking option outside Nicolas Sanchez.

Up against him will be Toomua, who looked very lively coming off the bench last week against the Springboks. After an injuury-disrupted season because of a foot problem, he looks to be hitting his best form, and might be timing it perfectly with Matt Giteau injured and Kurtley Beale out of sorts. Like Socino, he will act as a secondary playmaker, and if last week was anything to go by, Australia are a more dangerous team with greater cutting edge when he's on the park.

Team news: Seven is the magic number for both sides, with the Pumas completely overhauling their backline, Nicolas Sanchez the only survivor in the position he started last week. Santiago Cordero switches to full-back, with Juan Imhoff and fit-again Gonzalo Camacho on the wings, and Matias Moroni and Juan Pablo Socino making their Rugby Championship bows in midfield. Martin Landajo slots in at scrum-half, while the two changes up front see starts for Tomas Lavanini and Javier Desio.

Australia have also mixed things up, handing David Pocock and Greg Holmes their first starts since 2012 and 2007 respectively. Waratahs duo Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will pull the strings at half-back, while Matt Toomua replaces the injured Matt Giteau. Joe Tomane gets the nod on the wing, replacing the injured Rob Horne and finally Ben McCalman starts in place of Scott Higginbotham. An experienced bench features the likes of Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale, who missed this fixture last year because of the text message scandal.

Previous results:

2014: Argentina won 21-17 in Mendoza
2014: Australia won 32-25 in Gold Coast
2013: Australia won 54-17 in Rosario
2013: Australia won 14-13 in Perth
2012: Australia won 25-19 in Rosario
2012: Australia won 23-19 in Gold Coast
2003: Australia won 24-8 in Sydney
2002: Australia won 17-6 in Buenos Aires

Prediction: Only once in the six meetings between the sides in the Rugby Championship has there been more than seven points in it, and we're expecting another close one in Mendoza. Australia look to have picked more based on form, and we think that might be enough, especially against an untested midfield and new-look backline. Australia by 3!

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Matías Díaz, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Date: Saturday, 25 July
Venue: Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza
Kick-off: 19:40 local (22:40 GMT, 8:40 AEST, 10:40 NZST, 00:40 SAST)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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