Rugby Championship Betting: Argentina v Australia
Not so long ago Australia would have been strong favourites for this clash, but times have changed in recent years and weeks says Geoffrey Riddle and Argentina should take all the beating in a low-scoring encounter...
"Robbie Deans has used 38 players since his team lost to Scotland in the summer, which only compounds the pressure that he is under to produce a result."
* Rodrigo Roncero has been one of the stars of the Rugby Championship. The Puma prop will almost certainly starting his final Test on Saturday and wins his 55th cap. He made his debut in 1998.
* Australia have used 38 players since losing to Scotland in June. Of those 38 players only skipper Nathan Sharpe and Digby Ioane have played in the same position in each of those ten Tests.
* Argentina are unchanged from the side that pushed Australia to 23-19 earlier this season. In contrast Australia now play Kurtley Beale at fly-half and bring in James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Ben Tapuai, Nick Cummins and Mike Harris.
* Australia have scored six tries so far in the Rugby Championship - the same as Argentina, compared to South Africa's 11 and New Zealand's 14.
* The 42,000-capacity Estadio Gigante de Arroyito hosts the Pumas for just the second time. Aregentina beat Scotland 21-15 there in 2008.
Australia limped into Rosario this week battered and bruised from their demolition at the hands of South Africa and the layers face an intriguing puzzle ahead of Saturday's showdown with the Pumas.
Strictly on figures and ratings, Australia should be favouritesRugby Championship by around five points but there is so much in Argentina's favour in the Estadio Gigante de Arroyito it is easy to scrub away those five crucial points.
Australia last visited Argentina in 2002, running out 17-6 in Buenos Aires but so much has changed in that time, let alone in the past few weeks, that on Betfair the home side edge favouritism at [1.96].
The Wallabies have to sift through the rubble of their 31-8 defeat to South Africa in Pretoria, manage a huge journey and time zone change and take to the field with an injury-ravaged squad.
Apart from the very best players such as Dan Carter, who had a huge hand in New Zealand's point-fest against Argentina last week, I tend to ignore the majority of team news. Most players in the matchday 22 are interchangeable and do not affect a team's effectiveness. They merely alter how the match is approached.
In Australia's case, however, they have used so many players this season due to serious injuries that the XV that take to the field are, in effect, their third team.
This Wallaby team holds 120 fewer caps than the Australia side that edged out Argentina last time and 11 of the Wallaby matchday 22 have fewer than ten Test caps. Robbie Deans has used 38 players since his team lost to Scotland in the summer, which only compounds the pressure that he is under to produce a result.
It is difficult to ignore also that under Deans, and generally over the last decade, Australia's record abroad has been dreadful. In the Rugby Championship they were beaten to nil by New Zealand and barely showed up at altitude last week. The lack of experience within the side can only exacerbate this situation. Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper, two of the most committed players in the squad suffered horrific injuries last week and leave a huge hole in terms of talent and experience. Barnes has a punctured lung and Ashely-Cooper was knocked into this week and remains behind.
The Quade Cooper debate rages on in the background, also. Cooper tweeted that there was a 'toxic environment' within the Australia camp and subsequently appeared on Australia's answer to the Rugby Club to deliver a rambling account of his sense of injustice.
For anyone who is looking into the row from the outside it is very clear where this toxic environment stems from - Cooper himself. It's all very well playing beautiful attacking rugby at Super 15 level, but there is precious little space for such frivolity in the pressure-cooker area of Test match rugby when your team is struggling to assert itself. What's more, Cooper, Beale and Ioane were implicated in a car accident in the small hours a few weeks ago. I'm all for a few beers when you're winning but it simply highlights further that the mindset in certain sections of the team is completely out of kilter.
In contrast Argentina have a balanced side, who have been pushing the best teams close all summer. They beat a lacklustre France earlier this season and tackled South Africa to a stalemate. Even away from home they have performed admirably and were in the hunt for 60 minutes against the All Blacks in the Land Of The Long White Cloud.
I can't really see Australia winning this, but it is almost impossible to zero in on exactly where the supremacy line should lie and a scratch match is no giveaway if you want to back either side. This does look a very tradeable match, however.
Argentina do not have the nuts and bolts to run up a huge score. They have shown in the past few seasons that they do not have the attacking platform to put Australia away so the safest option has to be to go low in the total points market. There are no points markets up at the time of writing but anything down to 38 looks fair.
2pt Back under total points
(1-5 pt staking plan)