Argentina v Tonga preview: Pumas to tarnish Tongan hopes
- Only one point currently between the two nations
- Argentina makes seven changes from team that thrashed Georgia
- Tonga set to field the oldest side in Rugby World Cup history
This match is a straight shootout for the second spot in Pool C, with only one point currently separating the sides. Argentina could leapfrog Tonga with a win, while a defeat for either side will effectively end their World Cup prematurely.
Argentina were perhaps fortunate to face reigning Champions and arguably the best team in the World New Zealand in their first match.
Despite losing, the South Americans acquitted themselves well and, on paper at least, they have been left with a relatively easy path to the quarter-finals.
Tonga performed well against a highly motivated Namibian side, but they are now just five days removed from that game. Defeat here, coupled with the shock loss in their opener to Georgia, would spell the end of their tournament.
There are seven changes from the Argentina side that ran in seven unanswered tries against the Georgians in the 54-9 win.
Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore return to the pack, while Ramiro Herrera comes into the front row in place of tighthead prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
In the backs, Jeronimo De la Fuente and Matias Moroni link up to form an untested midfield partnership for Argentina.
Tonga meanwhile are set to field the oldest starting lineup in Rugby World Cup history.
The starting XV has an average age of 31 years and 38 days beating Samoa’s record breaking team that defeated the USA two weeks ago, by just 34 days.
There are six changes to this side, which also happens to be the most experienced Tongan team in the history of the tournament with a combined 349 caps.
Elvis Taoine, Halani Aulika and Tukulua Lokotui enter the pack at the expense of Aleki Lutui, Sila Puafisi and the injured Hale T-Pole.
Skipper and all time most capped Tongan Nili Latu returns to lead the side, while Soane Tonga’uiha
Tonga’s record try scorer Fetu’u Vainikolo returns to the backs along with Kurt Morath, who is their record points scorer.
Players to watch
The speedy back requires just one more try to break the joint accolade he currently shares as Argentina’s top try scorer in World Cup competition. A brace in the rout of Georgia drew him level on four tries, but one more would see him standalone. His overall record now stands at 13 tries from 29 caps, and he will likely add to his tally with Argentina looking to avoid a head to head confrontation with Tonga and exploit their pace down the wing.
Tonga needs a result here, which means that once again they will be looking to their forwards to put a shift in. Alongside fellow second rower Tukulua Lokotui, Joseph Tuineau is a disruptive force at lineouts and is a tough tackler. The giant lock made every one of his ten tackles against Namibia stick while he also made two carries over the gainline and one clean break in that match.
Although Tonga has the tools offensively to upset Argentina, their opening performances against two of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament proved that there remains far too much work to do at the back. Coach Mana Otai may be fielding the most experienced Tongan side ever to grace the competition, but a historic first ever quarter-final berth for the Pacific Islanders may have to wait another four years. The Pumas have far too much class to slip up here, and they will claim the win to ascend to second in the table.
Argentina by 20.
Argentina: 15. Joaquin Tuculet, 14. Santiago Cordero, 13. Matias Moroni, 12. Jeronimo De La Fuente, 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 Pablo Orlandi, 19. Matias Alemanno, 20. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21. Tomas Cubelli, 22. Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23. Horacio Agulla
Tonga: 15. Vungakoto Lilo, 14. Telusa Veainu, 13. Siale Piutau, 12. Sione Piukala, 11. Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10. Kurt Morath, 9. Sonatane Takulua, 8. Viliami Ma’afu, 7. Nili Latu, 6. Sione Kalamafoni, 5. Joseph Tuineau, 4. Tukulua Lokotui, 3. Halani ‘Aulika, 2. Elvis Taione, 1. Soane Tonga’uiha
Replacements: 16. Aleki Lutui, 17. Sona Taumalolo, 18. Sila Puafisi, 19. Sitiveni Mafi, 20. Opeti Fonua, 21. Samisoni Fisilau, 22. Latiume Fosita, 23. David Halaifonua
Date: Sunday, October 4
Venue: Leicester City Stadium, Leicester
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Mike Fraser
Television match official: Ben Skeen