Wal­la­bies aware clash with Ar­gentina will be tough

● Coach Cheika dis­misses lev­ity ahead of Satur­day’s Test

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport -

Michael Cheika says Ar­gen­tinean coun­ter­part Mario Ledesma is like fam­ily, but the deadly se­ri­ous Wal­la­bies boss is in no mood for ban­ter as he faces his for­mer for­wards coach on Satur­day.

The two men worked side by side for the NSW Waratahs and then Aus­tralia un­til the end of the 2017 sea­son, when Ledesma was ap­pointed coach of Su­per Rugby side the Jaguares and then the Pu­mas.

They are close, but the friend­ship has been tem­po­rar­ily put aside. Cheika was not im­pressed by as­sis­tant Wal­la­bies coach Stephen Larkham jok­ing with re­porters this week about Ledesma.

“I’m not that into it, if you know what I mean. I get the joke and ev­ery­thing but like I said, there won’t be any jok­ing on Satur­day. It’s go­ing to be a big con­fronta­tion.”

Cheika was speak­ing after Larkham told me­dia, tongue in cheek, that Ledesma “strug­gled as an as­sis­tant coach ... I can’t see how he’s had the limited suc­cess he’s had al­ready”.

The Wal­la­bies go into the Rugby Cham­pi­onship clash on the Gold Coast up­beat after beat­ing South Africa 23-18 last week­end to end a four-Test los­ing streak.

They also have a men­tal edge, hav­ing beaten the Pu­mas in 15 of their last 16 Tests.

De­spite be­ing odds-on favourites, Cheika is tak­ing noth­ing for granted with Ar­gentina much im­proved un­der Ledesma’s stew­ard­ship.

They up­set the Springboks 32-19 in Men­doza and put up a spir­ited per­for­mance against the All Blacks last week­end.

“I don’t think any­one is un­der the il­lu­sion that we don’t need to work harder this week than the week be­fore,” said Cheika.

“This is a piv­otal Test for both na­tions.”

The Wal­la­bies will be with­out skip­per Michael Hooper, who pulled out on Fri­day with a ham­string in­jury.

But they have been boosted by the re­turn from in­jury of break­down spe­cial­ist David Po­cock, who takes over as cap­tain, and Israel Fo­lau, who will start on the wing rather than his favoured full­back spot for the first time in five years.

It is a gam­ble by Cheika, who has opted to keep Dane Haylett-Petty in the num­ber 15 jersey after two stand­out dis­plays in Fo­lau’s ab­sence.

The tac­ti­cal shift fol­lows vet­eran Bernard Fo­ley be­ing dumped for the Springboks clash in favour of Kurt­ley Beale at fly­half and Matt Toomua at in­side cen­tre, with the com­bi­na­tion re­tained for Ar­gentina.

Po­cock said the Wal­la­bies were wary of Ar­gentina un­der Ledesma, whom he de­scribed as “a great man”.

Ar­gentina’s scrum has long been con­sid­ered the rock their game is built around, but it strug­gled against the All Blacks, with Ledesma, him­self a for­mer hooker, ad­mit­ting it had been “torn apart”.

In a bid to fix their prob­lems, prop San­ti­ago Me­drano has been brought in to the start­ing XV for Gar­cia Botta and blind­side flanker Pablo Mat­era re­turns in place of To­mas Lezana.

After rest­ing last week­end, Gon­zalo Ber­tra­nou is back at scrumhalf with Martin Lan­dajo rel­e­gated to the bench.

Lock Guido Petti, who will be play­ing his 40th Test, said they were ex­pect­ing a com­pli­cated game.

Aus­tralia (15-1): Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Fo­lau, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroi­bete; Kurt­ley Beale, Will Ge­nia, Pete Samu, David Po­cock, Lukhan Tui, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold; Al­lan Alaala­toa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Fo­lau Fain­gaa, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Adam Cole­man, Ned Hani­gan, Nick Phipps, Bernard Fo­ley, Jack Mad­docks.

Ar­gentina (15-1) Emil­iano Bof­felli, Bautista Del­guy, Ma­tias Moroni, Jeron­imo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moy­ano, Ni­co­las Sanchez, Gon­zalo Ber­tra­nou; Javier Ortega De­sio, Mar­cos Kre­mer, Pablo Mat­era, To­mas La­vanini, Guido Petti, San­ti­ago Me­drano, Agustin Creevy (capt), Nahuel Te­taz Cha­parro

Replacements: Julian Mon­toya, San­ti­ago Gar­cia Botta, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Ma­tias Ale­manno, Juan Manuel Leguiza­mon, Martin Lan­dajo, Bautista Ezcurra, Juan Cruz Mal­lia.

‘There won't be any jok­ing on Satur­day. It's go­ing to be a big con­fronta­tion’ Michael Cheika WAL­LA­BIES BOSS

Pho­to­graph: JO­HAN PRE­TO­RIUS/GALLO IM­AGES

NEW PO­SI­TION: Israel Fo­lau starts on the wing

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