Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of Australia v Argentina from Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville. We’re into round five of this year’s Rugby Championship with kick-off at 8.05pm AEST.
After consecutive victories over South Africa, the Wallabies are back up to third on the world rankings and with as much spring in their steps as at any time since reaching the 2015 World Cup final. Dave Rennie’s side remains very much a work in progress, but after being run close by an understrength French touring party, and then punished mercilessly by the All Blacks, there is finally some momentum to build on.
With the pressure off somewhat, there is an expectation of victory at the start of a double-header against the Pumas. It will provide an ideal yardstick for Australia with the same opposition holding them to a pair of low-scoring draws late last year. Progress, if any, will be simple to judge.
Rennie is looking forward to the different challenge Argentina, and their rampaging pack, will pose. “They are a bit different, they’ll want to express themselves, their forwards throw a hell of a lot more passes. They’ll counter when given the opportunity – they’re very good at it,” Rennie said on Thursday. “They’re also really good at filling the field, very disciplined around the defence and it can be hard to break down.
Only five Wallabies retain their spots in the starting XV from the line-up that drew with the Pumas in December, and Argentina coach Mario Ledesma is expecting a much different contest. “I think Australia is a different beast than what it was last year,” Ledesma said. “They’re much more confident, they’ve had better results and very good content against South Africa, the world champions, so that’s very good news for them and they have players and leaders playing at the best. Quade Cooper, Hooper, Kerevi, Koroibete, they are playing at the best and maybe are within the best players in their position.”
I’ll be back with more shortly, but if you would like to join in, you can reach me by email or Twitter (@JPHowcroft).