Pumas, Wallabies playing money match at Twickenham
Almost a year after playing out a tense Rugby World Cup semifinal, Argentina and Australia are back at Twickenham today in the first Rugby Championship match outside the southern hemisphere.
Both unions agreed to shift the match because they need the millions they could pocket if their teams fill 82,000-seat Twickenham, which has twice as many seats as the original venue in Mendoza.
But, unlike at the Rugby World Cup, both teams haven’t done enough to make the last-round match a can’t-miss affair. New Zealand won the championship with two rounds to spare, and the Pumas and Wallabies are also-rans in the bottom half of the standings.
Last weekend, the Pumas didn’t come close to the All Blacks at home, while the Wallabies failed in South Africa to turn their domination into enough points. Australia coach Michael Cheika said the chance to finish second in the championship was irrelevant to the more important chance to restock the team. Queensland back-rower Leroy Houston, on loan at Bath, could become the 11th Australian to make his Wallabies debut this year if he comes off the reserves. “It’s pretty clear we’re going through a generational change,” Cheika said. “We understand that our challenge in Australian rugby is to build more depth. But we’re not going to cry about it, talking about losing players overseas. We won’t whinge about a lack of depth - we’ll go out and make that depth instead.
“That said, winning matches is what it’s all about. No one cares about second - I can’t remember who was in the World Cup final, I only remember that New Zealand won it.” The feature of his selection was dropping James Slipper, Australia’s most-capped prop with 82, from the reserves and replacing him with Tom Robertson, who can prop on both sides and was much younger.
The Pumas, whose only win in the championship was at home against South Africa in late August, chose influential flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez (right ankle and knee) and winger Manuel Montero (left leg) subject to them passing fitness tests yesterday. If Sanchez, the Pumas’ main kicker, can’t play, then Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias would swap his No. 12 jersey for No. 10.
The Pumas lost to Australia in that World Cup semifinal 29-15, their errors giving the Wallabies a two-try start in the first 10 minutes. The Wallabies got away again in Perth last month, going up 21-0 within 12 minutes. The lesson must eventually be learned by the Pumas.
Argentina: Australia: Lineups:
Joaquin Tuculet, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Manuel Montero, Nicholas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Leonardo Senatore, Javier Ortega Desio, Pablo Matera, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy (captain), Lucas Noguera. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano.
Israel Folau, Dane HaylettPetty, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), Scott Sio. Reserves: James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Allan Ala’alatoa, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Leroy Houston, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefa Naivalu (one to be omitted). — AP