Closing out the Rugby Championship this year are the two bottom placed teams, with Argentina still winless and Australia floundering after a bright start. Under different circumstances one might favour the Pumas to finally break their duck, but without their entire trio of back row stars and short of form it looks like they’ll have to wait a little longer. The Wallabies have hardly set the world alight themselves, so they’ll be thankful for the timely misfortune of their hosts.
Juan Fernández Lobbe is the last of the first choice back row to drop out, thankfully only for maternal leave rather than injury. Rodrigo Báez steps in on the flank with Javier Ortega Desio imported to the bench. One other change in the pack sees Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro handed a start in place of Ramiro Herrera, a somewhat unusual move considering the latter’s relatively strong form throughout the competition.
Even more odd is the return of Martín Landajo at scrumhalf despite Tomás Cubelli’s respectable showing against the All Blacks. Completely baffling is the inclusion of Horacio Agulla in the midfield instead of Marcelo Bosch. Agulla has started only one of his previous tests there and will be forced to defend against the in-form Tevita Kuridrani, a role one would think Bosch is more suited for given his defensive prowess.
New Cardiff Blues signing Lucas González Amorosino replaces Manuel Montero on the wing, yet another surprising change given the big winger’s impressive showing in their last meeting. Among the reserves Lucas Noguera Paz and Santiago González Iglesias make way for Bruno Postiglioni and Jerónimo de la Fuente respectively.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the disposed Kurtley Beale, the Wallabies have suffered two further injury blows with Rob Simmons and Ben McCalman dropping out of the squad. Former captain James Horwill returns to the second row while Scott Higginbotham starts for the first time in nearly two years. Both will relish the opportunity to impress ahead of the third Bledisloe test in a fortnight.
Josh Mann-Rea replaces James Hanson as backup hooker and gets a chance to win his first cap after watching for 80 minutes against the Springboks. Will Skelton and Matt Hodgson have been recalled to the reserves, and Queensland Reds no8 Jake Schatz could make his debut after being in and around the squad for some time. The backs see no changes, with Beale’s exclusion from the bench allowing for extra forward cover.
The only way the Wallabies don’t win this comfortably is if their lack of preparation time somehow throws them into disarray, but that seems unlikely at best. Horwill and Higginbotham are experienced campaigners and should boost the side if anything. Argentina haven’t been great the last couple weeks and have picked a very underwhelming side. Look for Australia to take this at a canter by 20, with only home field inspiration saving the Pumas from a vicious beating.
ARGENTINA vs AUSTRALIA
Saturday, October 4, 22:40 GMT, Mendoza
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistants: Craig Joubert (SARU) & Leighton Hodges (WRU)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (SARU)