Juan Martín Hernández will help Argentina win their first match at this World Cup against Georgia in Gloucester on Friday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Nicolás Sánchez may be at flyhalf, but it's Hernández, at inside centre, who runs the show for Los Pumas.
The 33-year-old showed some good touches against the All Blacks at Wembley last Sunday, and could be the difference against Georgia. Both the Pumas and Lelos have a strong pack of forwards but the former have more firepower among the backs.
The Pumas would have taken a lot from their 26-16 loss to New Zealand, having led 16-12 at one stage in the second half. But the reality is they can't afford to lose another pool match if they hope to qualify for the quarter-finals.
With that in mind, Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade has retained most of the team that gave the All Blacks a scare. Georgia have stuck with the side that upset Tonga 17-10.
Argentina and Georgia have met three times in Test rugby, with the Pumas winning 33-3 at the 2007 World Cup, 25-7 at the 2011 World Cup and 29-13 in 2013.
Expect the Pumas to make it four from four on Friday.
HERNÁNDEZ'S STATS THAT MATTER
54 – Test caps
52 – Test starts
11 – Tackles made against All Blacks at Wembley
13 – Kicks out of hand
5 – Runs
HEAD TO HEAD
Argentina 3, Georgia 0
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Javier Ortéga Desio, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Georgia – 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 10 Lasha Malaguradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 7 Viktor Kolelishvili, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Konstantin Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Subs: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Levan Datunashvili, 20 Shalva Sutiashvili, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Giorgi Pruidze, 23 Muraz Giorgadze.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images