Tonga will have to contain Argentina's wings, especially Juan Imhoff, in the first match between the sides in Leicester on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Tongans will not only have to front up against Los Pumas' formidable pack, but also deal with an Argentinian backline brimming with confidence.
Imhoff, in particular, has been in top form for Argentina this year. Having scored the first ever hat-trick against the Springboks when they won in Durban during the Rugby Championship, he has already dotted down twice at the World Cup.
Now the 27-year-old needs just one more score to become Argentina's all-time leading try-scorer at the tournament. Given the form he's in, you wouldn't bet against him breaking that record, especially not against Tonga's unstructured defence.
Tonga boast similar firepower in their back division, with exciting broken-field runners like Telusa Veainu and Fetu’u Vainikolo, but Argentina are defensively stronger that their previous two opponents – Georgia and Namibia – and a good character test awaits the backline.
Los Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade named a strong starting XV, which includes seven changes to the side that beat Georgia 54-9, while his counterpart Mana Otai selected Tonga's oldest match 23 in World Cup history. The return of experienced captain Nili Latu, a crucial leader for this crunch match, will boost the Pacific Islanders.
Argentina are one point adrift of Tonga in the Pool C standings, and a win in Leicester could determine who makes it out of this pool behind the All Blacks.
IMHOFF'S STATS THAT MATTER
4 – Career World Cup tries
2 – Tries scored at 2015 World Cup
97 – Metres made
4 – Offloads
4 – Defenders beaten
8 – Tackles made
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first Test meeting
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Horacio Agulla.
Tonga – 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Viliami Ma’afu, 7 Nili Latu (c), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joseph Tuineau, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 3 Halani ‘Aulika, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha.
Subs: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 David Halaifonua.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Getty Images