The Wallabies’ brains trust will be hard at work this week to try to find a way to crack giant-killer Argentina’s brick wall defence in their Tri-Nations showdown on Saturday in Newcastle.
Despite notching 402 days between Tests, the proud Pumas dismantled the All Blacks 25-15 at Bankwest Stadium to shock the rugby world.
New Zealand looked bereft of ways to break through Argentina’s defensive line, only managing a 52nd minute try to skipper Sam Cane and one after fulltime by Caleb Clarke that barely counted.
Australian playmaker Reece Hodge said he could also see the influence of former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who is now part of the Pumas coaching team.
Hodge said Argentina’s steely defence had been a talking point at their training camp in the NSW Hunter Valley.
“A lot of the boys were very impressed with the way Argentina defended – they didn’t give the All Blacks an inch,” Hodge said on Sunday.
“It’s one thing to do it against Australia A and another to do it against the All Blacks.
“They have obviously been training very hard and had that game circled for a long time and they were pretty clinical and played with a lot of passion and lot of skill.
“We had a BBQ last night after a big training day and a few boys were discussing how tough a challenge they are going to be.”
He said the Wallabies coaches would be poring over the match to come up with a game plan to secure successive wins following Australia’s own upset victory over New Zealand in Brisbane.
“Our coaches were watching pretty intently and they will no doubt go through it with a fine-tooth comb over the next couple of days,” Hodge said.
“We’ll probably find out tomorrow morning how they see the way forward.”
Cheika is now in the Argentine coaching box thanks to his long relationship with head Pumas coach and former Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma.
Hodge said he could see Cheika’s influence on their attack.
“A few sort-of semi-trick plays had Cheika’s fingerprints all over them,” he said.
“He’s a deep thinker about the game and I’m sure he will have a few more up his sleeve on Saturday.”
In only his second Test start in the No.10 jersey, Hodge was instrumental in Australia’s 24-22 win over the All Blacks and with James O’Connor still battling a knee injury, he was hopeful he could retain it for the McDonald Jones Stadium clash.
The Wallabies have only lost twice to Argentina at home in 16 starts – an ugly four-point loss on the Gold Coast in 2018 and an 18-point defeat in Brisbane in 1983.
– Melissa Woods
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