The Wallabies will be much better for their near-death experience against Scotland, Rajiv Maharaj says. He reckons they'll be too good for Argentina and could post a handsome win...
"The Wallabies were the first to admit they felt strangely flat against Scotland. However, word from our snouts in camp suggests there’s a completely different vibe this week: the Aussies are much refreshed, fit, and ready to grab a place in the final."
Australia v Argentina
Sunday October 25, 16:00
Live on ITV
Make no bones about it, Argentina are a very good side and are worthy semi-finalists after comprehensively dismantling Ireland upfront and out wide in the quarter-finals last weekend. However, it has to be noted Ireland were missing match-winners Johnny Sexton, captain Paul O'Connell and flankers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien. If anything, it would have been a surprise had Ireland won under the circumstances. Maybe only the All Blacks could cope with the loss of so many frontline players in key positions.
It appears the betting markets have over-reacted to the Pumas win as well as Australia's great escape against Scotland. The end result is a conservative points start handicap for the Wallabies of -6.5 paying [2.08]. The strong recommendation is to snaffle that up with seconds. The reasoning here is simple: the Wallabies are the better team on attack. They play a very clever style of game the Pumas have never been totally comfortable with; inside balls to runners in the 9/10 channel, mixed up with a lot of width. These teams last played not all that long ago - in late July in Mendoza where the Wallabies ripped the Pumas apart to win 34-9. Certainly, the South Americans have improved plenty since - but not to the extent where the Wallabies won't be able to cover a -6.5 handicap.
As for Australia's last-gasp and controversial win against Scotland? Well, this column takes the view - one explored in my Guardian blog on Sunday - that teams struggle after playing Wales. For example, England struggled against the Wallabies the week after playing Wales. And the Wallabies having played Wales in an epic struggle in their final pool match, looked well and truly cooked from the start against Scotland. Wales, whether they win or lose, play teams ragged. Seven days' recovery is simply not enough after playing the ultra-fit Welsh. England paid the ultimate price and Australia very nearly did too but for a controversial penalty at the death.
The Wallabies were the first to admit they felt strangely flat against Scotland. However, word from our snouts in camp suggests there's a completely different vibe this week: the Aussies are much refreshed, fit (including David Pocock and Israel Folau), and ready to grab a place in the final. Indeed, the Wallabies at their best, as they were against England and then Wales back-to-back, have the measure still of the improved Pumas, and should be too good for them come Sunday. To that end, taking the Wallabies at -6.5 paying [2.08] is excellent value. And rather than take Australia to win by more than 12.5 points at [3.25], the recommendation is to go for the higher value proposition of winning by between 13-21 points, which is paying [5.1].
To the tryscoring markets, and we're sticking with Folau yet again. It's astonishing he has yet to score a try in this tournament. That's a statistical anomaly given his strike rate of 18 tries from 36 games. He's only scored one try in 2015 - in the Wallabies 41-13 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park in August. He is well due, and at [3.0] is excellent value. As he is too as the first tryscorer paying [10.0], which is also a recommended play.
David Pocock is also an attractive anytime tryscorer option at [4.0]. When Pocock plays, the line-out drive from close to the opposition line is almost always on. He's scored four tries from eight World Cup matches so anything over evens is outstanding value.