Rugby Championship
Halves to see Wallabies home against Pumas
Cornell vander Heyden
September 11, 2014
Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley slotted the winning conversion against South Africa © Getty Images
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Argentina demonstrated against New Zealand that their forward pack deserves plenty of respect, and Australia have made the right moves ahead of the Test on the Gold Coast. The All Blacks were on the back foot for part of last weekend's Test in Napier but managed to gain the ascendancy at the back end. The Wallabies can expect a similar barrage from the South Americans, and will be banking on their backs to outclass the Pumas once the early storm has been weathered.

Team News

  • Tatafu Polota-Nau comes back into the Wallabies' front-row, with James Hanson dropping to the bench. Peter Betham will start on the wing in place of the injured Adam Ashley-Cooper while Ben McCalman was preferred to Scott Higginbotham as No.8 in the absence of the concussed Wycliff Palu.
  • Wingers Horacio Agulla and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino are the main casualties from the Pumas' loss to the All Blacks following a disappointing game in Napier, with Juan Imhoff and Manuel Montero preferred against the Wallabies. Matias Alemanno comes into the second row for the suspended Tomas Lavanini.

Tatafu Polota-Nau's inclusion at hooker is good news for the hosts as he will add much-needed grit to the Wallabies' pack. Peter Betham adds pace on the wing and the backline should not suffer too much from the injury absence of Adam Ashley-Cooper, even though he is a big loss. But the really good news is the selection of Ben McCalman at No.8. The 26-year-old back-rower enjoyed a breakout Super Rugby season for Western Force, clearly reaping the rewards for working hard on his physicality. The scrum will lose 8kg in Wycliff Palu's absence, but McCalman's work rate and versatile skill set makes up for it.

The Pumas looked full of energy and intent for large portions in Napier, but they lacked some basics when needed. A prime example came when Kieran Read picked from the scrum and popped a ball to Aaron Smith, while the Pumas just stood and watched. Smith had acres of space with Argentina's backline failing to shuffle and at least force their opponents to shift the ball wider to score.

Tomas Lavanini's presence will be missed in the second-row, after his suspension for charging Richie McCaw, but conditions in Queensland are likely to favour Australia's running game. The Nick Phipps/Bernard Foley halves combination should be should be even better after the Springboks run-out, Tevita Kuridrani played well, and the Wallabies' backline is due to fire.

In form

Openside flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon caught the eye with several powerful drives in Napier, one of which saw him fall just short of scoring. The Wallabies must ensure he is closely monitored around the Cbus Super Stadium.

There were few standouts for the Wallabies in a scrappy game tagainst South Africa, but Israel Folau shone again in the backline and Rob Horne had plenty of work before going over for his try. Michael Hooper was again the pick of the forwards, and the fact that he has played plenty of better games underlines his value.

Argentina need to show a little more behind the pack © Getty Images
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Out of form

The Pumas have excellent set-pieces, are generally solid in defence, and the Wallabies alone have beaten more defenders in this tournament, but they have comfortable the lowest average metres gained per match and they have not scored more than one try - and just four in total - in their past eight Tests away from home against Rugby Championship or Six Nations teams. They simply must learn to find the try line if they are to offer more than nuisance value.

As Greg Growden wrote earlier this week, Rob Simmons really needs to address his discipline. Australia were lucky that Bryan Habana was wrongly sin-binned as those needless penalties conceded by Simmons could have cost them the win.

Key area to watch

The advantage line. At times the All Blacks were seriously threatened by the Pumas in this area. When they get on a roll and gain confidence, Argentina are very hard to stop. Even their hooker and captain Agustin Creevy is a giant. The Wallabies haven't been great in this tournament when trying to ruck their way upfield, and this will be another challenge in Queensland.

Stats

Israel Folau has scored four tries in two appearances against the Pumas, including the only hat-trick of his Test career in their most recent meeting; he has scored more tries against the Pumas than any other international side. The Wallabies are undefeated in their past six home Tests - their best run since winning 11 home Tests on the trot between 2006 and 2008 - and Argentina last triumphed over the Wallabies in 1997; Argentina have not defeated the Wallabies in Australia for more than 30 years.

Prediction

The Wallabies' backline looks more settled with Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley pulling the strings, and that cohesion should ensure they scrape home. Australia by 10.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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