Argentina v Australia preview: Wallabies attempt to tame ferocious Pumas
Argentina meet Australia in the second Rugby World Cup semi on Sunday: 4 pm kick off
Winner will face reigning champions New Zealand in the final next Saturday
Pumas make just one change to the side that beat Ireland with Marcelo Bosch returning
Australia make three alterations to the starting XV that limped over the line against Scotland
With both sides chasing history, Australia will look to use their turnover prowess to shackle free-scoring Argentina.
The South Americans are on the cusp of reaching their first ever Rugby World Cup final. Argentina demolished an under-strengthed Ireland side in a tensely thrilling quarter-final, and made the Six Nations’ Champions look distinctly average.
Daniel Hourcade’s side have been one of the most prolific and entertaining in this tournament, and they must now look to break down one of the best defensive sides in Australia.
The Wallabies’ backline was severely tested last weekend against Scotland, and the men in gold only just scraped through with a controversial last gasp penalty.
If Australia are to contest a record fourth World Cup final in their quest for an unprecedented third crown, they must overcome their toughest test of the competition so far.
Argentina have made just once alteration to the side that swatted Ireland out of the running, with outside centre Marcelo Bosch returning from suspension in place of Matias Moroni.
The return of the veteran back makes this a full strength Pumas side, and one with the least changes between successive World Cup matches since 2007.
That was also the last time that the side lined up for a World Cup semi final, but they were ultimately beaten by eventual winners South Africa.
Australia have made only three alterations from the side that limped over the line against Scotland, but they have received a huge boost in terms of their returning personnel.
Turnover winning machine David Pocock returns from a calf injury in place of Ben McCalman at number eight, an Israel Folau replaces Kurtley Beale at fullback.
James Slipper also returns at loosehead in place of Scott Sio for his 73rd international, making him the most capped Australian prop in history.
This is also the Wallabies’ most experience XV ever to start a World Cup clash, with 876 caps between them.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Argentina: Nicolas Sanchez
Set piece supremo Sanchez ran the show against Ireland, kicking 23 of his side’s 43 point tally and steering them to a convincing victory. The young fly-half needs just six more to surpass Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw as the leading scorer at this World Cup, and he is currently eight clear of Australia’s Bernard Foley.
Australia: David Pocock
Despite Ben McCalman tackling hard against the Scots last weekend, the shadow of David Pocock loomed large. Had the big number eight been playing, Australia could very well have won far more comfortably than they did. If the Wallabies are to halt the second highest try scorers in the tournament, they will need Pocock to do what he does best, and steal the ball for his side.
Argentina have not scored less than 43 points since their 26-16 defeat to New Zealand in the opening round. The Pumas have pummelled everyone in their path, but there is a chance that they may have peaked too soon. Australia pride themselves on their tight defensive unit, and Daniel Hourcade’s men may well have met their match. Michael Cheika’s men know how to win ugly, as proven by the method in which they negotiated a stern Scottish challenge. History certainly favours the men in gold, although Argentina can point to a 21-17 win in last year’s Rugby Championship. Although we were treated to some high scoring quarter-finals, this could well be the lowest scoring knockout match of the competition thus far.
Australia by three
Argentina: 15. Joaquin Tuculet, 14. Santiago Cordero, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Juan Martin Hernandez, 11. Juan Imhoff, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Martin Landajo, 8. Leonardo Senatore, 7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6. Pablo Matera, 5. Tomas Lavanini, 4. Guido Petti, 3. Ramiro Herrera, 2. Agustin Creevy, 1. Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16. Julian Montoya, 17. Lucas Noguera, 18. Juan Figallo, 19. Matias Alemanno, 20. Facundo Isa , 21. Tomas Cubelli , 22. Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23. Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Australia: 15. Israel Folau, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Matt Giteau, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Will Genia, 8. David Pocock, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Rob Simmons, 4. Kane Douglas, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. James Slipper
Replacements: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Toby Smith, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Dean Mumm, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Kurtley Beale
Date: Saturday, October 17
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, George Clancy
Television match official: Ben Skeen