After a better than expected result against Japan, Los Pumas are fighting fit for Wales on Saturday. In a battle of the top six World Rugby ranked teams, each is wanting to keep their places, and to impress on fans their ability to win on the world stage.
The touring Argentina side face three of the United Kingdom’s best teams. Starting with Wales, they then play Scotland and then England–quite a short, sharp and intense schedule, Los Pumas are fighting fit this week though, ready to face the Welsh challenge. Coming off a 20-54 defeat of Japan, they enter Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on a high.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 10, 2016
With regular head coach Warren Gatland in the early stages of the British and Irish Lions tour planning, Rob Howley has stepped into his shoes. A less than flattering opening loss last week means he is already under the spotlight. The national sport in Wales, rugby commands a key audience every autumn, and a performance on the field, is just as primary as a positive bank statement.
Los Pumas are Fighting Fit
A team filled with extraordinary talent, they always play with a flourish and want to use the ball. Gaining in professionalism each year they compete in The Rugby Championship, it has been a positive input into the South American sides game. Formerly a style similar to France, they now play a committed game of offensive-defense, hunting for the ball and they smartly use any set-play ball from lineout or scrum.
A mix of athletic loose forwards and a huge tight-five, their scrum is a credible weapon Howley must hope his side can defend against. Not ignoring the backline, which has weapons from numbers nine to 15. Some of the tries scored in 2016 were a mix of amazing counter-attack, and some sensational line breaks and support play.
Two names stand out for Argentina recently. Rattle off names like captain Agustin Creevy, Hernandez, Tuculet and Senatore–but there are two more names that Welsh fans must be weary of;
Nicholas Sanchez: flyhalf
More than likely a key figure, as the try scoring opportunities are less common when playing a Six Nations side, Sanchez must drill his core role. Place kicking, field kicking (both offensive and in defense) and his general play. Scoring tries, he has the ability to pop-up in space although his defense is more than often tested.
Expect him to control the match, before the free-flowing rugby attempts to out pace the Welsh team.
Facundo Isa – loose forward
Isa (main picture) has been a standout on the International stage. A powerhouse runner from the back of the scrum, he has outshone Kieran Read and Billy Vunipola in 2016. His long striding runs have given front-foot ball, and he has appeared in the backline to upset opposition lines. With only a few years of International rugby, this is a player who can only improve with time on the park.
Stay healthy, and Isa will haunt all three UK teams on this tour.
Daniel Hourcade has not had much time to smile in 2016. All through The Rugby Championship, he was near to a smile but only once could he bare a grin. The sole victory at Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium was epic. The first win over South Africa on home soil, the smiles were widest that night.
Maintaining that smile was the problem. All so close in Hamilton, they pushed the All Blacks extremely hard; as they did in Perth. The Wallabies out-thought the Pumas on that night, to leave them with very little reward from the TRC. Even a closely contested home match against New Zealand ended with little to smile about.
A Win in Wales would make them grin
Winning is a natural remedy. It always has been, from Buenos Aires to Cardiff, a win generates emotion and excitement. Big smiles! And those emotions are what the South Americans are best at. Proud, convicted and on Saturday Los Pumas are ‘Fighting Fit’ and ready to play.
Because as much as they may want to smile, they need to be ‘ready to fight’ the Welsh Dragon. A huge task, much tougher than an Asian Dragon [like last weeks match against Japan]. Wales are an entirely different challenge. At home at the Principality Stadium, they are more than capable of wiping any smile from Los Pumas face.
And more easily than some would have you think. In an even encounter, commentators are picking the home side by a margin of less than six points. Favoritism will lye with the team in red, and penalties from the visitors will be punished by Dan Biggar’s boot.
Home town favourites
The first step to beating Argentina is to shut down the two names mentioned earlier. That means covering each side of the ruck–halting Iza’s options. Ross Moriarty will be entrusted with that, aided by Sam Warburton. With Alan Wyn Jones, that is a fierce resistance to any Pumas challenge.
And they must resist. Due to the big loss from last week, there is not time to waste. 8-32 was no close-run thing, with Australia beating up on the Welsh team. It was a real eye-opener for the Cymru supporters. Now, can this proud team rebuild from that loss?
Fans will be hoping to support the men in red, as they face-up and meet the fire and passion of Los Pumas. As equal are the odds and rankings are, it will come down to moments. It will come down to the performance of individuals. And if you consider the implications….the rankings could very well change by Sunday morning.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) November 7, 2016
Wales lost several places last week, so a win might just revise that change. It could retrieve a degree of honour, before they face Japan and then the major challenge of South Africa on November 27.
Argentina must make good on promises
If the home team are under internal-pressures, then they could very well allow it to affect them. New coach Rob Howley seemed more than disappointed last week. He will want his men to redeem themselves, but the International game is not made up of fairy tales.
Sentiment aside, Argentina must make good on promises made in 2007. Back then, Augustin Pichot ran his men up to third place at the Rugby World Cup and apart from wins [like the one over South Africa] they are still inconsistent.
Win(s) on this tour, and the team and coach will feel more secure. It is the ruthless nature of International sport, that you are judged on results. They may at times play like the ‘best team in the world’ but after 55 minutes in New Zealand, they couldn’t complete the task. Mend those issues on tour, strike a vein of form and have Sanchez and Isa perform at their peak–Argentina will be a challenge for Wales this weekend.
Wales: Halfpenny, North, J. Davies, S. Williams, L. Williams; Biggar, G. Davies; Jenkins (captain), Owens, Francis, Charteris, Jones, Warburton, Tipuric, Moriarty
Replacements: Baldwin, Smith, Lee, Hill, King, Ll. Williams, Anscombe, Roberts
Argentina: Tuculet, Moroni, Orlando, Hernández, Moyano, Sánchez, Landajo; Noguera, Creevy (captain), Herrera, Petti, Alemanno, Matera, Desio, Isa
Replacements: Montoya, Botta, Pieretto, Senatore, Lezana, Cubelli, Iglesias, Cordero
“Main photo credit”