The times, in rugby, are different. Just go for an example: the Qatar 2022 World Cup will last 28 days and the France 2023 Rugby World Cup will last 51 days. For this reason, perhaps, although there are still more than 13 months to go before the kick off of the maximum festival of the sport of the oval ball, what remains for the debut of The Cougars against England on Saturday, September 9 at 9:00 p.m. at the Velodrome in Marseille is not enough. And more if you take into account that there will not be many games that he will have Michael Sheika to prepare the team for the World Cup: there will be 12 with the possibility of adding a friendly against the Springboks or in the previous one of France in Europe. For this reason, the capital importance that the Rugby Championship which is about to start in Mendoza for the national team.
The Pumas come from a positive series in terms of numbers against Scotland and also positive from the emotional point of view, especially due to the way in which they won the last test in Santiago del Estero. From the game it was clear from the first match that Cheika’s premise is clear: execute the fundamentals well, not fail in three basic aspects such as scrum, ruck and defense and play fast attacking rugby. A modern rugby that, in recent times, curiously has been seen more in teams from the Northern Hemisphere than in those from the South.
And what was seen, purely in terms of rugby, in the Australian’s debut as coach of Los Pumas? It is clear that the defensive aspect is the most urgent to correct. It is not about the system but a technical issue in the tackle. Cheika said it when he referred to the stance of the tackler who should go sideways and not forward. Also the ruck at times did not work. Although it was minor to major and in the Mother of Cities it was decisive to reverse history in the last 20 minutes that led to the much-celebrated victory against the Scots. The point is not to involve so many people when you are in control of the training. It is about the inertia of the ruck carrying the team forward. And that same inertia is what could generate a more dynamic rugby, a more comprehensive game with the backs more involved in attacking situations. Remember: Argentina has variety in quality and quantity of players for the three bottom positions (wines and fullback) and that is a handicap that must be taken advantage of.
Michael Cheika knows that he has work ahead of him to consolidate the team. Photo: AFP
A quality campus
Argentina actually has high-quality rugbiers in all its lines. There are more firm positions than others, it is clear. But players like Pablo Matera, Guido Petti, Emiliano Boffelli are from an extraordinary and recognized international hierarchy. Precisely with Matera Los Pumas recovered a natural leader, a vital figure in a rugby team. Julián Montoya is a true captain but when the hooker was injured and the third row replaced him in his role in Santiago del Estero, the team was seen to line up behind him. And so the result turned around too.
The Wallabies are coming and because of the starting formation that Cheika arranged and because of the bench of substitutes that he formed (in rugby relays are key because it is a sport with a very high physical demand) you have to imagine that the Australian’s goal is to win the scrum and the maul in the first 50 minutes to have “fresh legs” in the last half hour when opponents loosen up to run across the width of the field of play. It is a very good pack of forwards that Los Pumas will offer with a good balance in the third row between González, Kremer and Matera, who will be eighth in a position that is not unknown (even in Crusaders he played in that role in a handful of games ) although he is more used to playing tight end.
On the backs side, given the injury to Nicolás Sánchez and the absence of Benjamín Urdapilleta (the two natural starters), the confidence to be one of the team’s drivers alongside Tomás Cubelli will once again be in Santiago Carreras, who each This time he seems to be scoring more points in the race to become the starter in the position at France 2023. Here’s a detail: On the bench will be Tomás Albornoz, who could debut for Los Pumas at Malvinas Argentinas. The Tucuman, nephew of Pedro Merlo, a history of rugby in the province, is a natural opener, with many attacking resources with his foot and who takes permanent risks.
Pumas celebration after the last win over Scotland in Santiago del Estero.
Australia, a young and dangerous rival
And the Wallabies? Of the three powers in the South, Australia is the team with the worst present. Although it does not stop being tremendously dangerous. He comes from losing all three games in the November window in Europe and the series against England at home. And it clearly ranks below the world champion Springboks and the All Blacks, who are also not going through their current best.
It is a young and dangerous team, with some players Cheika knows by heart, including winger Jordan Petaia (promoted by himself), Fijian winger Marika Koroibete, scrum-half Nic White and flanker and captain Michael Hooper. But he is also a team under construction, with many rugby and emotional ups and downs. With three “spicy” quarters (still without Samu Kerevi) but with a pack that, in the previous one, is inferior to the Argentine.
Quade Cooper, the talented Wallabies fly half who will start this Saturday against Los Pumas. Photo: EFE
Other data: andhe opening in Mendoza will be the talented Quade Cooper, relegated by Cheika (he preferred Bernard Foley) in the 2015 World Cup in England in which the Australians were runners-up. It remains to be seen how eager the fly-half will be to show his former coach that he was wrong. If this happens, it will be one more reason for concern for Los Pumas…
Always supported on the basis that the visitors are the favorites to win, in any case the possibility of an Argentine victory is centered on one important factor: contrary to what happened historically in the Rugby Championship, when the Wallabies were the opponents of the last two games and, in addition, with the bonus of playing the two games against the All Blacks in the previous one, the double confrontation against the Wallabies will be the one that opens the tournament. And locally. The Pumas are rested and once again the support of the public could be decisive.