Rugby Championship: Pumas to push Aussies close in low-scoring game
Geoffrey Riddle previews Saturday's Rugby Championship match between Australia and Argentina...
"Argentina simply do not score enough points for my liking to have a serious chance of victory but with Robbie Deans’s side struggling for consistency if you can get a decent price about there being 31-40 points in the match I’d take it and have a saver on 21-30t from the game."
- Australia and Argentina last played at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia. The Wallabies beat Argentina 24-8 in the pool stages.
- There are three survivors from that day in Sydney; Nathan Sharpe, the Wallabies skipper, and Pumas Patricio Albacete and Juan Martĺn Hernandez.
- Australia have scored just five tries in their past five matches.
- Argentina have scored only five tries in their past five matches also.
- Will Genia kicked almost as many times as Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale last week and his sniping runs were seen as many times as Adam Ashley-Cooper ran with the ball.
- Genia, who has played 29 of his country's last 31 matches, is the third Wallaby skipper to be injured this season.
When I previewed the start of the Rugby Championship I reminded everyone that according to the International Rugby Board's world rankings Argentina were about as good as Scotland.
With Scotland having beaten Australia earlier this season, and the inspirational form of Santiago Phelan's Pumas over the past few weeks there will be many who will fancy Argentina to beat Australia on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
The momentum is with the visitors, who pushed New Zealand close for 60 minutes last week in atrocious conditions in Wellington. So much is this the case that Australian players are suffering the ignominy of being asked who they think might win the encounter with Argentina in the press conferences.
What is clear, however, is that Argentina were greatly flattered by the result last week. They got their weather and without Dan Carter New Zealand failed to get out of first gear for much of the match.
The aid of Graham Henry's cribsheets would have also helped and such is the tide of goodwill towards the Pumas that they are considered 13.5-point underdogs at Skilled Park.
The handicap would be about right had Will Genia been playing but Australia's stand-in skipper suffered a terrible knee injury last week which rules him out of the autumn internationals. Genia is not only an inspirational figure in the Australian camp but his kicking ability and the tempo he injects into proceedings are a crucial ingredient to Australian success.
His pairing with Quade Coooper keeps the Queensland Reds flyhalf largely in check and his level-headedness will be sorely missed this weekend.
Cooper is on his own as the playmaker this time, which is a dangerous proposition for both Argentina, and of course his own side, as Pat McCabe comes in at inside-centre, while Berrick Barnes, so often the cool head to Cooper's outrageous attacking mentality, has been shunted to full-back. It is the first time Barnes will start in the position professionally.
Australia dug deep last week against the Springboks to come back from a first half drubbing to take the match by the scruff of the neck and win 26-19. It was doubly impressive to haul themselves off the canvass without such outstanding leaders such as David Pocock and James Horwill, who are also injured and without Genia also they look rudderless.
With Argentina likely to have the upper hand in the scrums - has there been a better prop this tournament that the wonderfully rough and ready Rodrigo Roncero? - and possibly the line-outs Australia could struggle to assert themselves.
Argentina simply do not score enough points for my liking to have a serious chance of victory but with Robbie Deans's side struggling for consistency if you can get a decent price about there being 31-40 points in the match I'd take it and have a saver on 21-30t from the game.