Most pundits expect the All Blacks to exact revenge on Los Pumas after their shock maiden defeat to the Argentines in Sydney a fortnight ago.
Many see it as inconceivable for an All Blacks side of the modern era to lose three consecutive tests on the bounce, but that’s exactly the risk Argentina pose just hours ahead of kick-off of their second Tri-Nations bout in Newcastle.
After months without any game time and then being asked to play four test matches straight, however, questions are being asked of Argentina’s ability to foot it physically in their final two Tri-Nations matches against the All Blacks and Wallabies.
That’s led the bookmakers to place the Kiwis as strong favourites heading into Saturday’s encounter at McDonald Jones Stadium, and is also the reason why former Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell is sceptical of Argentina’s chances.
Speaking on The Aussie Rugby Show, Mitchell agreed with the sentiment of fellow panellist and ex-Wallaby Stephen Hoiles in his assertion that the physical toll asked of the Pumas may be too much.
“The big question will be can the Argentinians maintain the rage for three weeks straight having not played for so long? That’s the biggest challenge,” Hoiles told The Aussie Rugby Show.
“I’d like to think they can, but, physically, they’ll get tested.”
Mitchell added to that point, expressing frustration that his former side, which drew with the Pumas 15-all in Newcastle last weekend, couldn’t achieve a much-needed victory to bolster their Tri-Nations title hopes.
“That’s the big question, and that’s why I think last weekend was a big missed opportunity for us,” the 71-test wing said.
“These Argentinians have been asked to play four high-intensity test matches on the trot, and you’d have to think, after having not played any footy before this, that they’re going to have to start to taper off – physically, mentally, emotionally – to some degree.
The All Blacks have made three changes to their starting lineup for Saturday's Tri Nations rematch against Argentina following their historic loss to the Pumas two weeks ago. #TriNations #ARGvNZL https://t.co/1SfMaQv8ae
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 27, 2020
“We already started seeing some soft tissue stuff start to come in. Juan Imhoff went off with a hamstring on the weekend… That’s what made it so frustrating that our guys couldn’t get the job done against them because I think the Argentinian side coming up and then the one we’ll face the week after won’t be as match-ready as the ones they’ve just faced.”
Fellow panellist and veteran broadcaster Sean Maloney noted that Argentina’s task would be especially tough given that the All Blacks would be “humming” at the prospect of virtually securing the Tri-Nations title with a bonus-point win this weekend.
However, Hoiles suggested Los Pumas may have the upper-hand on the back of last week’s draw against the Wallabies, claiming the low intensity affair may play into Argentina’s hands from a physical preparation point-of-view.
The incoming LA Giltinis assistant coach, who played in 16 tests for the Wallabies, said the side’s recover throughout the week may have been made easier thanks to the minimal “high-speed running metres” throughout last week’s stalemate.
“The game that was played on Saturday night, because of how it sort of slowed down towards the late end of the first half and pretty much the entire second half, I feel as though that might work in Argentina’s favour of not actually being too exhausted,” he told The Aussie Rugby Show.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t brutal because the collisions were tough, it was test footy, but it just didn’t look as though it was was gonna be – they talk about high-speed running metres now – I just think they will be low, and that’s really what guys struggle to recover from the most.”
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