Wales fired up to win an end-of-year Test
WALES will attempt to halt their staggering 11-game streak without a win in an end-of-year Test when they face Argentina at Cardiff ’s Millennium Stadium today ( kick- off 4.30pm).
Wales are currently enjoying their most successful era since the glory days of the 1970s, having won three Six Nations titles and reached a World Cup semi-final in the space of six years.
Add to that the presence in their side of 10 players in the British and Irish Lions’ decisive third Test win over Australia in July, as well as half the combined outfit’s management team, and home expectations are unsurprisingly high this weekend.
Yet Welsh rugby is characterised by fluctuating fortunes that rise and fall like the valleys of the nation, and despite their Six Nations success, there is something about this time of year that sees the fortunes of the national side fall as predictably as the leaves from the trees.
Last week’s 24-15 defeat by South Africa means Wales have not won on home soil at this time of year since 2009 when they beat the Pumas 33-16 at the Millennium Stadium.
Now they face the same opponents four years later trying to reverse the trend, having gone down 26-12 to Argentina in Cardiff just over 12 months ago.
“Our focus is always the Six Nations, that is our bread and butter, so sometimes we have gone into the (northern hemisphere) autumn looking to blood a few players and try a few combinations,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland.
“It is not a competition but we are conscious that we have not done as well as we would have liked in the autumns. Perhaps now is the time to kick on,” the New Zealander added.
Wales have made five changes, including one positional switch, to the side beaten by the Springboks last week. Rhodri Jones, Justin Tipuric and new cap Cory Allen are promoted with Lions trio Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Jonathan Davies all out through injury.
Allen, 20, shone for Wales Sevens but remains an unknown quantity despite being asked to fill the void left at Cardiff Blues by the departure of Jamie Roberts and he now replaces another Lion in Davies.
“We’re not sure what to expect from Cory but sometimes you have throw young guys into the deep end and see what happens,” said Gatland.
“With Jonathan injured we’re looking for some cover and it’s a chance for a young guy to develop,” the Lions head coach coach added.
Wales captain Sam Warburton starts at blindside flanker, allowing for the return of Justin Tipuric in the same back-row, along with No 8 Toby Faletau, that started the 30- 3 Six Nations title-winning rout of England in March.
Prop Gethin Jenkins wins his 100th Wales cap.
New Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade, who made four changes from the side beaten 31-12 by England at Twickenham last weekend, said: “This is only my second game and we are getting more confident with each other as a group.
“We’re in the process of development and playing in the Rugby Championship has been a big jump. It has made us grow up very quickly which is the only way to improve.” – AFP