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Michael Cheika issues update on Pablo Matera ahead of Scotland rematch

By AAP
(Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

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Argentina rugby coach Michael Cheika says it’s difficult to prepare a team to face the same opponents in rapid succession as the Pumas ready themselves for another clash with Scotland.

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“The analysis gets bigger and bigger,” Cheika said, with the teams having more and up-to-date information that can identify how the game could be won or lost.

The coach has been working on how his Argentina side can clinch their rugby series against Scotland on Saturday with a match to spare, after winning the first test 26-18.

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The Pumas haven’t beaten any tier-one rivals in consecutive tests in six years.

They and Scotland have plenty to work on after last weekend.

Argentina, who hadn’t played in eight months, easily bottled up a Scotland side coming off a poor Six Nations campaign to lead 18-6 at half-time. Scotland finally clicked in the third quarter to tie the score but the Pumas hit back from the restart and managed the game comfortably for the last 10 minutes.

It was a double celebration of the Pumas’ first home game in nearly three years because of the pandemic, and Cheika’s first match in charge.

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The Pumas’ foundations were good, he said, particularly the scrum and maul. Discipline had to be improved.

“And we must stop looking at the scoreboard to focus on playing. At times we stopped attacking and I want the team to be encouraged to play without thinking so much about the result.”

It was understandable that the Pumas relaxed at half-time. They scored two good tries and the Scots weren’t firing a shot.

The visitors, chastened at half-time, responded in superb fashion. But as soon as Scotland tied the score after 56 minutes, Argentina produced a momentum-stealing try.

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Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was frustrated with his side’s numerous errors and failure to adapt to a stop-start game.

“It was the lowest ball-in-play time we have ever had as a team,” he said. “But if that happens at the weekend we have got to make sure that, when the ball is in play, for either team, we play much better.”

His response was to start his first-choice flankers Hamish Watson and Rory Darge. Watson was available for his 50th Scotland cap after a chest-shoulder injury in training.

Hooker Dave Cherry, not seen since the 2021 Six Nations, and lock Sam Skinner were also injected into the pack.

The backline’s only change was for scrumhalf Ben White, who made a try-scoring debut in the Six Nations win over England in February, to be given a chance ahead of Ali Price.

Townsend also stuck by utility Blair Kinghorn at flyhalf with backup from rookie Ross Thompson.

Cheika dropped fullback Juan Cruz Mallia even though he admitted he played well, to switch wing Emiliano Boffelli back there to see how he fares.

Gonzalo Bertranou and Santiago Carreras were staying at 9-10 after the series-ending torn leg muscles to Tomas Cubelli and Nicolas Sanchez.

No 8 Pablo Matera was replaced by old hand Rodrigo Bruni after Matera took a blow to the face and didn’t train on Wednesday. But Cheika said Matera will be back for the third test next week.

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