Australia will be keen to continue where they left off against South Africa last week when they host Argentina in Perth on Saturday.
The Wallabies’ victory over the Springboks in Brisbane ended a six-match losing streak, which stretched back to their defeat to the All Blacks in last year’s Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham.
Although they have finally managed to get that elusive win under their belt the Wallabies will be the first to admit that they weren’t at their best against the Boks and this weekend’s clash will be used as another stepping stone in their quest to reach the heights they reached in 2015 when they won the Rugby Championship and finished as runners up at the World Cup in England.
Australia showed plenty of character to fight back from a 14-3 deficit against South Africa but they can ill afford a similar start against los Pumas who have shown in the last two years that they have the ability to
Although they have ended their winless run, Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika feels they haven’t turned the corner yet and said earlier in the week that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Cheika’s decision to play field both Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley in his starting line-up is slowly bearing fruit with the latter’s allround performance in the unfamiliar inside centre position one of the highlights in Brisbane.
Much will be expected of Australia’s forwards who gave a good account of themselves against the Boks. Their poor forward play was one of the main contributing factors during their winless run but there were encouraging signs in Brisbane which they will look to build on.
Argentina, meanwhile, head in to this clash on the back of a 57-22 drubbing against New Zealand but although they lost by a 35-point margin los Pumas gave the world champions a big scare.
Daniel Hourcade’s troops have come on in leaps and bounds and will genuinely fancy their chances of winning this Test. If they achieve that feat, it will be only Argentina’s second ever win against the Wallabies on Australian soil with their last victory recorded way back in 1983 when they claimed an 18-3 win in Brisbane.
That result and their previous visit to Perth – when they suffered a narrow 14-13 loss in 2013 – should be enough motivation for them to get the better of their hosts.
Veteran back-row Juan Manuel Leguizamon, who missed last weekend’s clash with the All Blacks, believes the battle at the breakdown will be crucial, against the Wallabies who boast two of the game’s best breakdown exponents in Michael Hooper and David Pocock.
“We need to keep the intensity during the whole game because for us is something that we need to improve on and work on,” said Leguizamon.
“Some games we play, most of the time we keep the intensity but a lot of games we don’t do it and we need to improve in that.
“The breakdown will be very important for us.
“The Wallabies are good there and they have a couple of players that are very good so we need to account for that.”
Players to watch:
For Australia: Outside centre Samu Kerevi was one of the Wallabies’ best players against the Boks after a scintillating performance with ball in hand. The 22-year-old, who has kept regular Wallabies number 13 Tevita Kuridrani on the replacements bench in recent weeks, crossed the gainline at will in Brisbane finishing with 115 metres gained on attack. Although he’s only playing in his fifth Test, Kerevi hasn’t let down his country yet and a repeat of last week’s effort could further cement his place in the run-on side.
For Argentina: The performance of scrum-half Tomás Cubelli will be closely scrutinised as this is the first time he starts a Test in this year’s Rugby Championship. Cubelli plies his trade with the Brumbies in Super Rugby and will be highly motivated to get the better of his team-mates from the Canberra-based franchise in this Test. Much will depend on Cubelli’s decision-making while his service to his outside backs will also have to be superb if los Pumas want to be victorious.
Head-to-head: The battle between the two hookers will have a huge bearing on the end result as both Australia’s Stephen Moore and Argentina’s Agustín Creevy are captaining their respective sides. Their leadership will obviously be crucial for their respective teams’ causes but Moore and Creevy are not amongst the best hookers in the game for nothing and will also hope to inspire their team-mates in general play. Moore bounced back with a solid shift at the coalface of the Wallaby effort against the Boks and will be hoping for a similar effort, after his captaincy and on-field contribution was questioned during their defeats to the All Blacks. Creevy has played consistently well for los Pumas this season and will be expected to lead from the front again in this Test.
Team news: Australia head coach Michael Cheika has made one change to his starting XV as Rob Simmons comes in at lock. Simmons will play alongside Adam Coleman, returning to the Wallabies second-row for the first time since the Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney. The move means that the Wallabies will field their sixth locking combination of the season in seven Tests, with last weekend’s Coleman and Kane Douglas pairing the only one to last beyond one match.
Argentina boss Daniel Hourcade has made a handful of changes to his run-on side for this Test. Scrum-half Tomás Cubelli comes in for Martin Landajo at the base as they look to build on a promising performance last week against New Zealand. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Santiago González Iglesias and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino start in Javier Ortega Desio, Juan Martín Hernández and Matías Orlando’s positions this Saturday, with Desio moving to lock in place of Guido Petti while Matías Moroni shifts from wing to centre..