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‘Going to be a great challenge’: What the Wallabies expect from Pumas

By Finn Morton
The Wallabies take part during an Australia Wallabies Captain's Run at CommBank Stadium on July 14, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Los Pumas will be desperate to bounce back from their disappointing loss to the All Blacks in the opening round of The Rugby Championship last weekend.

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Argentina were met by an almost deafening cheer from the home crowd as they made their way out onto Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza on Saturday afternoon.

Following on from Argentina’s sensational win over the All Blacks in Christchurch last year, the Mendoza crowd were full of belief ahead of another clash between the southern hemisphere rivals.

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But things didn’t go to plan.

Los Pumas are renowned for their physicality and dominance at the set-piece, but they were outmuscled in all areas of the game against the New Zealanders.

The hosts may have had the last laugh with a try to veteran Agustin Creevy after the siren, but the scoreline was a sight for sore eyes.

Argentina were beaten 43-12.

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But don’t rule them out. The Pumas are better than that performance, and they’ll be eager to prove that when they take on the Wallabies in Sydney this weekend.

The Wallabies, who are coming off a tough loss of their own to world champions South Africa, are expecting a physical challenge against the Michael Cheika coached Pumas.

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Wallabies assistant coach Neal Hatley still ranks the star-studded Argentine forward pack “pretty highly” compared to other nations around the world.

“Last week they struggled a bit so knowing a bit about Michael Cheika I’m sure there’ll be some bounce back as well,” Hatley told reporters on Friday.

“We expect them to come out and be very physical. I think they’ve done exceptionally well over the last two or three years on the back of how physical their forwards pack’s been, and even their backs.

“You know what you’re getting so it’s going to be a great challenge to see how basically both sides respond.”

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The Wallabies fell to an emphatic loss against the Springboks in Pretoria, with a late try to debutant Carter Gordon practically the only shining light out of the Test.

But the Wallabies have learnt their lessons out of the 43-12 loss, and are looking to respond with a big performance in front of their fans.

“It starts at set-piece so it’s just like a domino effect. If you don’t minimum achieve parity, you’re going to be on the backfoot,” Hatley added.

“It’s pretty hard against big men to recover that so it starts phase one, we’ve got to do better phase one.

“You’re not always going to get what you want, there are going to be times where other sides do get on top, where they have a purple patch.

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“Our response has got to be better.”

The Wallabies have named a big forward pack – literally – for their clash with the Pumas.

La Rochelle lock Will Skelton has retained his spot in the starting side, and will be joined by another towering lock in Richie Arnold.

“It’s always helpful to have somebody like that (in your) side. Will Skelton, whatever he is – seven foot and 145 kgs.

“We’re not going to do well as a forward pack with two blokes. I think where Will Skelton’s been absolutely brilliant has been the energy… the enthusiasm he’s brought back.

“He’s obviously had two or three brilliant seasons where he’s probably been one of the standout forwards in Europe. His team has won week after week, won two European Cups. Richie has had similar experiences with Toulouse.

“Not only from a physicality point of view, but from a mindset mentality, they come from two winning environments, so they’ve been brilliant back into our group.”

The Wallabies take on Argentina at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium at 7.45 pm AEST on Saturday evening. Earlier, the All Blacks are set to host fierce rivals South Africa in Auckland.

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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