Tatafu Polota-Nau’s return from injury is a timely boost for the Wallabies struggling pack ahead of their clash against Argentina at the Gold Coast today.
Tatafu returns from a knee injury to earn his 50th cap for the Wallabies and to re-claim the cursed #2 jersey. Polota-Nau strengthens the Wallabies scrum, which was embarrassed by the All Blacks in Auckland and sent backwards on two occasions when Rob Simmons was yellow carded and they decided to scrum with only seven, and by the Boks in Perth, resulting in two penalties. They could battle again on Saturday against a Pumas pack that dominated South Africa in Salta and sent the All Blacks pack backwards on a number of occasions in Napier.
If the Wallabies can achieve parity at scrum time it will allow them to unleash their dangerous backs, including Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani. The Pumas have no such game breakers and will rely heavily on their big men to stay in the contest.
The Wallabies and Pumas have both made three changes to their starting lineups.
Apart from Polota-Nau’s return, Ben McCalman replaces Wycliff Palu (concussion) in the gold No 8 jersey and Peter Betham comes in for Adam Ashley-Cooper (neck) on the wing. For the visitors, Juan Imhoff and Manuel Montero replace Horacio Agulla and Lucas González Amorosino on the wings respectively, while Matias Alemanno starts at No 5 lock in place of the suspended Tomas Lavanini.
The Pumas have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1983, but have come close since joining the Rugby Championship, with a 23-19 defeat on the Gold Coast in 2012 followed by a 14-13 loss in wet conditions in Perth last year. If it rains (there is a 50% chance) Argentina will really fancy their chances of finally getting the job done.
Tatafu Polota-Nau v Agustin Creevy
Australia’s hooking crisis has been abated – somewhat – by the timely return from injury of human wrecking ball Polota-Nau. The Waratahs No.2 has recovered from a knee injury and will line up for his 50th Test on Saturday night. The Wallabies pack faces a massive challenge against the renowned Pumas scrum, but having a top-line hooker back should ready the front-row.
Polota-Nau will also provide plenty of punch around the field, with his aggressive defence and ability to bust through tackles with ball in hand. Creevy has been front and centre as Argentina demolished the Springboks scrum in the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship and then gave the All Blacks plenty of headaches last weekend. But while Creevy and his fellow front-rowers will again try and establish set-piece dominance, it’s a victory on the scoreboard that they crave.
The skipper is no slouch around the field either and will be leading from the front to try as the Argentines chase their first win in The Rugby Championship.
Ben McCalman v Leonardo Senatore
An injury to Wycliff Palu has paved the way for McCalman to earn just his third Test start since 2011. The Western Force No.8 edged out Scott Higginbotham for the starting role, with coach Ewen McKenzie lauding his “abrasive and physical” play. Nicknamed the “Big Dog”, McCalman will be looking to bite into a powerful Pumas pack.
Along with their scrum, the back-row has been a source of strength for Argentina and McCalman’s opposite number Senatore slotted in nicely against the All Blacks when he replaced the injured Pablo Matera for his first start of the tournament. He was controversially denied what appeared a straightforward try at a crucial period early in the second half, but will be hoping for more joy on Saturday night.
Matt Toomua v Juan Martin Hernandez
Kurtley Beale’s late cameo off the bench against South Africa – and his combination with fellow Waratahs Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau in particular – has left many questioning the starting claims of Toomua. The Brumbies playmaker has held on to his spot at inside centre but will be looking for a big game to silence the doubters.
While Toomua’s defensive abilities might tip the scales in his favour at present, he’ll still have his work cut out containing his rival on Saturday night. One of world rugby’s outstanding fullbacks over the years, Hernandez has moved closer to the action for Argentina. He’s getting on at 32 but his class remains and, alongside in-form flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, shapes as a dangerous attacking threat.
If the Wallabies pack manages to hold strong at scrum time, and keep the penalty count for the Argentines low, we should see the Wallabies run away with it with the wealth of talent they possess in the back-line.
The Puma’s are not the push-over they’ve been in the past, and strong performances against the All Blacks and the Springboks indicates that. However, we see the likes of Folau, Foley, Kuridrani, Toomua ect… being too much for the Puma’s to handle out wide. Wallabies by 15.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Bench: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Matt Hodgson, 22 Nic White, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Bench: 16 Matías Cortese, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.