'He was playing a lot of No.8 and I enjoyed that combination with him'
The Pumas lost six players ahead of the Gold Coast clash, including former captain and world-class flanker Pablo Matera, after they were locked out of Queensland following a day-trip across the border to Byron Bay.
It capped a tough tournament for the winless Argentine side, who were unable to play any matches at home, while coach Mario Ledesma said his side felt disrespected when a promotional photo for the four-nations tournament went ahead without their captain.
Australia outclassed the Pumas last round 27-8, however Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper was wary after their under-strength opponents rallied to a final round draw last year after Matera and two teammates were stood down for racial social media posts.
“We know that Argentina will b ounce back,” Hooper said on Friday.
“There’s a little bit going on there, full of emotion, and they will want to improve on their last game.
“There’s going to be a fair bit of emotion kicking off in this game, as we’ve seen in games like last year in a similar circumstance, so we’ve got to be on our game.”
Hooper said his team would try to put the blinkers on and focus on delivering a complete 80 minute performance, which they haven’t managed through the tournament.
“What has been pleasing is I think we’re starting to gain some momentum now,” the 29-year-old said.
“We’re talking about things during the week and executing them on the field; we’re still chasing that really solid 80 minute performance, and being extra clinical with that.
“Four weeks ago we were three losses on the trot so it hasn’t been a perfect run by any stretch and we’re not nailing things, there’s so much improvement and growth in us and we’ve got to stay focused on that.
“There’s always a goal to work toward.”
Two familiar faces return via the bench with backrower Sean McMahon playing his first Test in almost four years while 38-year-old prop Greg Holmes is poised to become the oldest Wallabies player to appear in a Test since WWII.
Flanker Hooper said he was excited to have the physical presence and work-rate of McMahon back in the line-up as they chase four consecutive Test matches wins for the first time since 2017.
“In 2017 he was playing a lot of No.8 and I enjoyed that combination with him,” Hooper said.
“I think he brings a really good dynamic to the team in the form of real aggression and just a super work-rate on the bloke.
“He’s been training really hard off the field in the last couple of weeks and he’s a great larrikin in the team as well.
“His enthusiasm to be in Wallaby gold has really been noticeable and it’s great to have him back.”
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