The last test of this year’s Rugby Championships moves to Twickenham when Argentina and Australia meet in the British Capital.
It is a first for the Rugby Championship to play a test in Europe and it should be a great spectacle as both teams will want to end the season with a win.
Sitting on five and nine points respectively, the Pumas know they can still avoid the wooden spoon and with the very slim possibility of South Africa also finishing in last spot there’s much to play for on the final day. New Zealand meanwhile have been in a different league.
The Wallabies will be disappointed in coming off second best to a Springbok side that hardly set the world alight last weekend in Pretoria while Argentina will rue a six-minute spell before half-time that cost them any chance of pushing for an All Blacks’ scalp in Buenos Aires.
Saturday is their chance to right those wrongs but Argentina’s hopes suffered a blow on Thursday when their in-form number eight, Facundo Isa, was ruled out. Australia may well argue they are missing their own star back-row but let’s hope it takes little away from the match.
There’s still quality on the field, plenty of it, as again we wait to see Israel Folau hit the heights of previous years. Quade Cooper is another who needs to start recapturing his best form on the gainline and with ball in hand if they are to challenge the likes of England.
It’s been a tough few months on top of a hard year for the Wallabies since their World Cup exploits. Factor in Super Rugby too and the upcoming seven Tests on their schedule before December 4 and it borders on the ridiculous. Michael Cheika knows he must manage players carefully if they are to get wins. Remember, before their northern hemisphere tour they face New Zealand in Auckland – another long flight in the legs.
They do look to be settling as a unit though, particularly in the backline, after that nightmare start in Sydney and Wellington. However, it is up front where Argentina will target this Wallaby team and even without Isa, expect the Pumas to edge that area. Whether that will sufficiently starve this Australia backline to go on and win the game is doubtful, however, in what should be a close game at Twickenham.
Players to watch:
For Argentina: With the absence of Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera will need to take over the mantle as chief ball carrier for the Pumas. He is doing a decent shift week in week out already but Isa’s injury leaves a sizeable gap in Argentina’s attacking game. There is a great deal of excitement over the young back-row duo and expect Matera to step up to the plate alongside Javier Ortega Desio and Leonardo Senatore.
For Australia: What a chance this is for Lopeti Timani, who earns his first start for Australia at number eight. Injuries have opened the door for him to make his bow but he will know that a big performance on Saturday could lead to many more starts in the gold jersey. David Pocock and Sean McMahon are more flankers than eights so opportunity knocks for Timani, who’ll be hoping to nail down this spot long term.
Head-to-head: Big shifts will be expected from both of the respective captains, as Agustín Creevy goes up against Stephen Moore. The Wallabies leader has come in for heavy criticism throughout this tournament, with not exactly all of it deserved, while Creevy provides not only a slick set-piece delivery for los Pumas with his work at the lineout but with the go-forward he so often provides with double-digit carries. The Wallabies are running out another new lock combination, their seventh of the year, meaning Moore’s authority throwing the ball in needs to be excellent.
Team news: Leonardo Senatore replaces number eight Facundo Isa, who hasn’t recovered in time from a leg injury sustained in los Pumas loss to the All Blacks in Buenos Aires. In the only other change to the pack, Lucas Noguera takes over from Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro at loosehead. Meanwhile in the back-line, Matías Moroni comes in for Santiago Cordero on the right wing.
Lopeti Timani will start at number eight for Australia as he replaces the injured Sean McMahon for this meeting. Leroy Houston’s 11-year wait for a Wallabies debut is one step closer to ending, with the Reds recruit named on an extended bench for the Twickenham clash. The inclusion of Rory Arnold is the only other change to the starting team, making up the tallest Wallabies combination in history, with the 208cm Brumbies lock pairing with 205cm Adam Coleman. Rob Simmons has been dropped out of the matchday squad for the third time this year.
2016: Australia won 36-20 in Perth
2015: Australia won 29-15 in London (RWC semi-final)
2015: Australia won 34-9 in Mendoza
2014: Argentina won 21-17 in Mendoza
2014: Australia won 32-25 in Gold Coast
2013: Australia won 54-17 in Rosario
2013: Australia won 14-13 in Perth
2012: Australia won 25-19 in Rosario
2012: Australia won 23-19 in Gold Coast
2003: Australia won 24-8 in Sydney
Prediction: There’s little to choose between these two sides so don’t be surprised if this encounter goes down to the wire. The Wallabies will edge it though. Australia to win by four points.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Santiago González Iglesias, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Gabriel Ascarate, 23 Lucas González Amorosino
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Leroy Houston, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani
Date: Saturday, October 8
Venue: Twickenam Stadium, London
Kick-off: 19:30 local (18:30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)