Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle (Australia)
Date: Saturday, November 21, 2020
It is not every day that form and history-making intersect, but that is where we stand with the Pumas after their astonishing 25-15 win over New Zealand in Sydney last weekend. This was a match that the Argentinians had no right to win. Many of their players hadn’t taken to the field in anger since Super Rugby was halted in March, while the national team hadn’t played a Test in 402 days, since a dead-rubber of a pool match against the USA back at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Many expected a blowout at the hands of an All blacks’ side that had played four Tests in four weeks and with a squad of players that had also played a full Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign while the majority of the Argentine squad was living in lockdown. This was their first-ever win against New Zealand, battling not only the might team, but also quarantines and late arriving players to name just two issues. Can they now go back-to-back against the Wallabies?
A little lost in the global euphoria of the Argentina win is the fact that the Wallabies also took care of New Zealand two weeks ago in a 24-22 win. It was the fourth match of their Test series, with the Wallabies coming a couple of coats of paint away from a very respectable 2-2 series draw. Instead, they had to settle for a couple of defeats (one very heavily), a draw, and a win. The Win, however, was one of the two matches that counts towards this Tri-Nations campaign, meaning that the comp is wide open as the All Blacks have a record of one win and two defeats, far from the cakewalk many predicted when it was announced South Africa were out of the tournament.
Argentina – perhaps unsurprisingly – will be making no changes to their run-on side here with head coach Mario Ledesma naming the same group that beat New Zealand. There are some changes on the Pumas bench, with Emiliano Boffelli coming in to provide a long-range kicking option and outside back cover. Other changes to their bench see the inclusions of Santiago Socino (hooker) and Facundo Isa (back row). The Argentines will again look to the leadership of the impressive Pablo Matera on the flank to drive them forward as they chase a second straight upset win.
The Wallabies were forced into a unique starting XV for their win over the All Blacks thanks to an injury crisis at fly-half. With both Matt Toomua and James O’Connor unavailable, head coach Dave Rennie opted for the ultimate backline utility player in Reece Hodge to start at No. 10. Neither O’Connor nor Toomua is yet back to full fitness, so Hodge will again start at pivot in an unchanged backline alongside the like of Nic White and Marika Koroibete.
Their changes come in the pack. Loosehead James Slipper is injured so 66-cap veteran Scott Sio is back in the front row, as is Taniela Tupou who replaces Allan Alaalatoa. Lachie Swinton is suspended to the ever-dependable Ned Hanigan will start on the flank in their other starting XV change.
It will be interesting to see what influence former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has here. He is in the Pumas camp as a consultant thanks to his good friend – and head coach – Mario Ledesma – and he certainly knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian side. I’m usually wary of backing a team after an emotional win as it is hard to deliver that sort of performance in back-to-back weeks, but the Pumas were a force of nature in Sydney and I like them to win here too at 1.65 with BetXChange. They should certainly cover the 5.5 point spread at 0.85 with the same company.