Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wallabies and Pumas to battle it out

by Ciarán Duffy

Argentina and Australia Could Offer Up A Classic

Last week, Argentina were the better team against Ireland, and Australia got the better of a decision against Scotland.  All that’s in the past now.  In knockout rugby it’s not about how you win, it’s about knowing how to win.  In addition to that, how you respond after your last game also shapes your next one.  That is my main concern for the Pumas here.  

Let’s go back to 2011.  Ireland surprisingly beat Australia in the pool stages, and suddenly they can reach a World Cup Final.  A formality against Italy, and then a winnable semi-final against France and England, for the first time Ireland would get to a semi-final and would have a good chance of going further.  Then Wales happened, over the course of 80 minutes the air was let out of the balloon and Ireland went out at the quarterfinal stage.  Go back a few weeks to the France game.  This was the match that would define Irelands World Cup, win this and avoid the All Blacks, win this and surely Ireland make their first ever World Cup semi-final.  One herculean effort later and Ireland had beaten France, ensuring they top pool D.  The problem is every week can’t be a herculean effort, and every week can’t be ‘the biggest game in Irish rugby history’.  Injuries had a big impact on Ireland’s performance, but Argentina were better and had more in the tank.  They played the game and ignored the occasion.  

Now Argentina find themselves in the same position as Ireland have in the past.  The Pumas have been to a semi-final before, they finished third in 2007, which was impressive considering they weren’t highly fancied to make it out of the pool.  Since joining the Rugby Championship in 2012, they have consistently improved.  Now is their best chance to make a final, this is the biggest game in their history.  But arguably, last weekend was their most impressive win in their history, beating the best team in the Northern Hemisphere against the odds.  The celebration from the Argentine players was justified in that respect, but they still have two more games to play.  They can’t afford to look ahead to their first appearance in a final before they have overcome this Australian side.  

Conversely we have Australia.  The Wallabies scraped through against Scotland last week, when they were expected to win comfortably.  Australia have something to prove now.  They now need to justify their place in the semi-finals.  It was a poor performance against Scotland.  But the Wallabies had won two big games, England and Wales, and now won their quarterfinal.  Australia are in a habit now of winning crucial matches, three in a row, where as Argentina have won one, similarly to Wales in 2011, who were unable to push on.  Australia have more experience at this stage, and may be in a better mindset to take advantage.  If they are going to win this one, Argentina need to ensure they are not their own worst enemy and focus on today.  

The record is in Australia’s favour as well.  They beat the Pumas in the Rugby Championship early this year, winning 34-9.  They have won the previous two meetings between the sides at World Cups, in 1991 and 2003.  That 1991 game was their only meeting at a neutral venue, which was held in Stradey Park, Llanelli.  

After the talk of Habana and Savea yesterday, Drew Mitchell has a chance to make history.  His two tries last week mean he has now scored a total of 14 World Cup tries, and is just one away from Habana and Lomu.  Mitchell has a chance to make it crowded at the top of the leader board.  

The weather will play a crucial role in the game.  The rain held off until Australia – Scotland last week, which contributed to the poor performance from the Wallabies.  Rain is expected for today’s game.  Argentina ran the ball very well against Ireland last week.  That may not be possible this week.  Bad weather may mean both sides will have to kick for territory.  Unfortunately this might hinder the quality as well.  Argentina do have better kickers in Sanchez and Hernandez.  Australia were very nearly punished by Scotland for trying to run the ball out of their own half in the rain.  If Australia fail to change their game plan when necessary it will be Argentina who progress.

The Pumas have a major advantage in the scrum.  Australia will be missing Scott Sio.  This is an area where Argentina can gain penalty after penalty and build a score.  Australia will need to be as good in defence as they were against Wales.  Folau and Pocock are back for the Aussies and their absence was felt last week.  Pocock adds what Australia need to win the crucial battles at the breakdown.  This is going to be a tight game that may be decided with one try.  This is where Imhoff and Folau become crucial, a bit of magic will be necessary and those are the two most likely sources.  This one will be won in attack rather than defence. Both sides have dangerous backs starting, with Australia slightly edging it on the bench.  Looking at how equal the two sides are from 9 to 15, Argentina’s advantage in the scrum will be crucial.  

As far as predictions go, it’s a tough one to call.  I do think it will be a high scoring game but the margin of victory will be tight.  Argentina to edge it on their ability to change their game better than Australia, let’s say, three points and potential the game of the tournament.  

A review of this game will be provided by Big Joe Shep.  

Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously.  He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.


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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019