Argentina v Australia
Scrum changes provide platform for Wallabies win
Sam Bruce
July 23, 2015
Rugby Championship Preview: Argentina v Australia

It's a return to the scene of the crime for the Wallabies this week as they face Argentina in Mendoza. Last year's 21-17 victory over the Wallabies remains the Pumas sole Rugby Championship win, and this clash looks to be only chance of improving that record this year with a tough away trip to South Africa waiting in a fortnight's time.

Daniel Hourcade's side were largely disappointing in their 21-point loss to the All Blacks aside from a six-minute period during the second half that yielded two rolling maul tries, both scored by skipper Agustin Creevy. Outside that spell, their vaunted set-piece struggled while they showed little to nothing in the backs; twenty-one missed tackles certainly didn't help their cause in defence either. But they remain a far sterner opposition on home soil and should be better for last week's run.

Team News

  • Argentina: Gonzalo Camacho is the highest-profile of seven changes, the winger recalled to play his first international since the 2013 Rugby Championship. He plays outside midfielders Juan Pablo Socino and Matias Moroni, who offer two caps' worth of experience, while Martin Landajo and Tomas Cubelli rotate at scrum-half and Santiago Cordero moves from the wing to full-back. Lock Tomas Lavanini and flanker Javier Desio are the only changes to the pack.
  • Australia: Michael Cheika is keen to test the talents of his entire squad and has therefore made seven changes to the side that beat the Springboks last week. Three of those have been forced by injury with Will Genia, Matt Giteau and Rob Horne all ruled; the promotions coming for Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua and Joe Tomane, respectively. Bernard Foley has been given the chance to press his claims at No.10 in place of Quade Cooper while prop Greg Holmes, flanker David Pocock and No.8 Ben McCalman are the fresh faces in the pack.

Australia, meanwhile, have arrived in Argentina buoyed by their post-siren win over the Springboks. Tevita Kuridrani's 82nd-minute try not only gave Michael Cheika's side a hug hit of confidence but also likely made the marathon journey to South America just that little bit more pleasant. Cheika wasn't at the helm for last year's defeat but plenty of the playing personnel remain, and they are intent on exacting revenge for what was a forgettable night for Australian rugby. Remember the anthem abomination?

In form

Few Pumas players produced a performance that would fall into the "satisfactory" category against the All Blacks, though skipper Agustin Creevy could certainly hold his head high. The 32-year-old hooker scored his first and second Test tries within six minutes of each other; he added to those two successful lineout drives by going a perfect 13 for 13 on his own throw. Seven tackles and a team-high 13 carries - three more than his nearest team-mate - rounded out a stellar captain's knock. He needs far more help from the other 22 players on the Pumas' team-sheet.

Israel Folau scored a hat-trick against the Pumas in 2013 © Getty Images
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Israel Folau was always going to have a slight dip in form in what has otherwise been Australia's finest code-swap; and so it came at the start of Super Rugby when the superstar full-back admitted he was struggling for enjoyment. Some wise words from Cheika soon solved the problem and the recently-re-signed Wallabies ace rounded out the Super Rugby season - including a hat-trick against the Cheetahs - in fine fashion. That return to form was only amplified last week when he negated an aerial assault from the Springboks with aplomb, and still managed 23 runs for 108 metres (match high), 10 beaten defenders, three offloads and one clean break.

Out of form

The Pumas have long been lauded for their scrum prowess; but they were completely overwhelmed in Christchurch by the experience front-row trio of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks. Tight-head prop Ramiro Herrera not only struggled under the pressure of Woodcock but also accounted for six of the Pumas' 21 missed tackles. Wallabies loose-head James Slipper struggled in the first half against the Springboks last week, giving Herrera a window for redemption.

It's not that Will Skelton is out of form exactly but Cheika will certainly be asking for a little more impact in Mendoza. The 135kg giant failed to make any impression on the Springboks' defence last week, returning a shockingly low five metres from eight runs; his massive frame has the potential for far more damage. Part of the problem looked to be the fact that he was often catching the ball standing still while the work of the Wallabies forwards in general was well below par in the first half.

Key battle

The Wallabies' breakdown work improved dramatically after the introduction of David Pocock against the Springboks, but it was the response of a previously overwhelmed scrum under the anchor of Greg Holmes that was far more impressive. Holmes has been promoted to the starting side in place of Sekope Kepu for what will be a battle with a Pumas front-row desperate to make up for last week's shortcomings. If the hosts fail to assert their set-piece skills like they did against the All Blacks, the Wallabies have the quality out wide to inflict similar punishment. Cheika's recruitment of former Pumas prop Mario Ledesma as scrum coach could well prove to be a masterstroke.

Key stats

  • Both nations scored two tries from possessions that started with lineouts last weekend, while Australia's other try started with a scrum.
  • Five of the six Rugby Championship meetings between these the Pumas and Wallabies have been settled by seven points or less.

Odds

Argentina are $2.70 and Australia $1.47

Tip

The Wallabies lost the plot in the corresponding encounter last year with both Nick Phipps and Michael Hooper sin-binned - the latter inside the final 10 minutes. The Pumas were able to frustrate the Wallabies on that occasion, and add to the pain of what was a depressing time for Australian rugby. That looks to be in the past, however, and, buoyed by Kuridrani's Brisbane heroics, Australia's World Cup preparations are headed for another significant boost. Wallabies by seven.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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