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Argentina full of belief ahead of decisive ‘round of 16 decider’

By Finn Morton
(L-R) Juan Cruz Mallía, Mateo Carreras, Agustín Creevy, Juan Martín González and Rodrigo Bruni of Argentina sing the national anthem prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on September 9, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

Looking to make the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2015, Argentina will need to beat Japan in a “round of 16 decider” this weekend in Nantes.

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For a team that was widely tipped to make it out of the group, Los Pumas’ World Cup campaign couldn’t have started any worse.

In their opening Test, England flanker Tom Curry was sent from the field inside the opening few minutes, but Argentina couldn’t make the most of it. Led by playmaker Geroge Ford, England ran away with a convincing 27-10 victory in Marseille.

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In the wake of that defeat, veteran hooker Agustin Creevy told reporters that “each game will be a final.” One more loss would send the Argentines home earlier than expected.

But Los Pumas bounced back as they needed to. Argentina overcame Samoa and defeated South American rivals Chile by a whopping 54 points, which set up a crucial final-round clash.

“We are well, knowing the importance that this match has for us. It is a round of 16 decider. Another final that we have to overcome,” Creevy told reporters in La Baule-Escoublac on Thursday.

“We are training very well, trusting in what we have been doing for a long time. We have to continue highlighting things and improving others.

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“Personally, I am taking it very calmly, enjoying it game by game, and this week enjoying it day by day. I think that if we do things well, the team will respond.

“We are confident and convinced of what we have in front of us on Sunday.”

For both Argentina and Japan, the equation is simple ahead of Sunday’s decider: win or go home. Both teams are on nine-competition points, while Samoa sit behind on six points.

Steve Borthwick’s England side have already booked their spot in the next phase with big wins over the Pumas, the Brave Blossoms and finally an emphatic 71-nil demolition of World Cup newbies Chile.

With one more spot up for grabs, Creevy said that Los Pumas hadn’t even thought about the possibility of losing to Japan.

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“You don’t think about that. We are preparing to win the game,” Creevy added.

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“Then there are consequences, unfortunately. We prepare to win the games, we see the important points where we can improve, where we can continue working, believing in ourselves, in what we are doing.

“You always think about how you win and not what might happen in you lose.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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