Argentina will have to deny Wallabies fullback Israel Folau possession and room to run if they hope to compete in this weekend's Test, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Pumas finally broke their winless run in the Rugby Championship with an historic 24-17 victory over Australia in Argentina last year. It was Australia’s first loss to Argentina since 1997, and brought the Wallabies’ miserable 2014 Rugby Championship campaign to a dismal end.
Sunday’s re-match between the two sides will be played at the same venue in Mendoza, and the Wallabies can expect to face another hostile crowd at the Estadio Malvinas.
However, it’s unlikely that Argentina will be able to repeat that historic feat, particularly if Folau is able to stamp his authority on the encounter.
The dynamic fullback was one of the unsung heroes in Australia’s win over the Springboks last Saturday, as the post-match stats told a different story. Folau topped the Rugby Championship rankings for carries (23), metres run (108), defenders beaten (10) and kicks caught (11).
The Springboks failed to appropriately adjust their kicking tactics in light of the threat Folau poses at the back, both as a lethal runner, but also as a human safe house under the high ball.
According to the Vodacom Rugby App, the Boks kicked 27 times from hand, a number of which were box-kicks that Folau gleefully plucked out of the sky to win back possession for the Wallabies.
It’s unlikely Argentina will kick as much, but they were guilty of far too many handling errors against the All Blacks last Friday, with the Kiwis pouncing on an array of loose balls, while also winning a handful of turnovers. And it was when the All Blacks upped their pace and intensity on attack that the Pumas simply couldn’t live with the world champs.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made a number of changes to his team, four of them in the backline, but Australia will be no less dangerous on attack.
The one big loss is that of Will Genia to injury, but Nick Phipps is a capable replacement, while Bernard Foley is a cool-headed general and will bring more stability to the flyhalf position than the mercurial Quade Cooper.
Matt Toomua takes over from the injured Matt Giteau and will add extra physicality at inside centre, with the midfield combination between him and match-winner Tevita Kuridrani offering plenty of firepower, while Joe Tomane will pose another threat on the left wing.
It’s Folau, though, ranging from fullback, who could expose the defensive frailties of Argentina if he’s afforded the freedom to do so.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 17, Argentina 5, Draw 1
In Argentina: Wallabies 5, Argentina 4, Draw 1
STATS AND FACTS
– Five of the six meetings between these nations in the Rugby Championship have been settled by losing bonus-point margins (seven points or fewer).
– Both sides have scored at least one try in each of their meetings in this tournament.
– The Wallabies have played eight Tests (won two, lost six) since they last managed consecutive victories.
– Australia beat the most defenders (26) last weekend, while Argentina beat the fewest (nine).
– Australia conceded a round-high 18 turnovers last weekend, while Argentina made the fewest errors (10).
– The Wallabies won all six of their scrums last weekend, while Argentina won just 75% of theirs, a round-one low.
Wallabies – 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.
Subs: 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.
Argentina – 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo; 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Matias Diaz, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images