Wallabies wary of Pumas catching them on the hop

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Photo: REUTERS/David Gray

The Wallabies are looking to secure a first Rugby Championship win by making sure they close out the Test against Argentina on Saturday after some frustrating close shaves.

Australia led 20-10 in the second half against South Africa in Perth last week, only for the Springboks to snatch a 23-23 draw. 

It followed a heartbreaking 35-29 defeat to the All Blacks in Dunedin last month when the Australians relinquished a 17-point lead as New Zealand snatched the winning try with two minutes left. 

The Wallabies have won 13 of their last 14 games against the Pumas and have lost only once to Argentina in 13 Tests at home, but are struggling for victories this year. 

Michael Cheika’s team have won only two of their six internationals this season and vice-captain Will Genia said the Wallabies must find a way to cope with the pressure moments and push on to win.

“It’s about just handling those moments better because in the moment that’s when you are a little bit flustered,” the 81 Test-capped scrum-half said.

“We’ve just got to make sure that when we are presented with those tough moments in games, we respond how we want with clear minds as opposed to just being a little bit rattled.”

The Pumas traditionally give the Wallabies problems, particularly at scrum time, and Genia expects Argentina to come hard after they led the All Blacks 22-15 before going down 39-22 last week in New Zealand.

“I think they’ll (Argentina) come at the breakdown pretty hard and look to attack us when they have the ball around the ruck,” he said.

“We’ve got to make sure we have a real conscious effort to tighten up those areas of our game.”

The Wallabies have made just one change to their starting XV with experienced lock Rob Simmons replacing Rory Arnold, who has missed out on this week’s matchday squad.

The Pumas have made four changes with Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Ramiro Moyano and Matias Orlando named in the starting XV.

Lezana will start at No 8 in place of Benjamin Macone while Landajo replaces former ACT Brumbies scrum-half Tomas Cubelli.

Joaquin Tuculet and Santiago Cordero have made way for winger Moyano and outside centre Orlando, with Emiliano Boffelli to start at fullback.

Argentina flanker Pablo Matera said he was keen to test himself against Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper at the breakdown.

“We always watch our opponents’ stats and Michael Hooper’s stats are amazing, he’s a player that runs a lot everywhere, really complete player,” Matera said.

“The Wallabies has been always an issue (for us) with the breakdown — (David) Pocock, Hooper, a lot of players that go for the ball and I think that’s why we are working a lot on that.”

Matera said he was expecting a fast start from the Wallabies, something Argentina will have to match if they want to replicate their All Blacks effort.

“I know they need to win, same as us, it’s going to be a really difficult match,” he said.

“The first minutes of the game are really intense and I believe if we manage to do a really good first-half, like we did last week, I think we’ll have a lot of chances to win.”

Teams (15-1)

Australia: Israel Folau; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper (capt), Ned Hanigan; Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli; Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Tomas Lezana, Javier Ortega Desio, Pablo Matera; Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (capt), Lucas Noguera. 

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Manuel Montero.

Referee: Johnny Lacey (IRL)