Limitoo News

Test of mettle for rusty Wallabies and Pumas

Pablo Matera is one of six Pumas players kicked out of the Rugby Championship for a border breach.
Pablo Matera is one of six Pumas players kicked out of the Rugby Championship for a border breach. Photo: Photosport

After falling to heavy defeats in their Rugby Championship openers last week, Australia and Argentina will be desperate to get their World Cup preparations back on track when they meet at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday.

The clash pitches former Randwick club mates Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika against each other in a coaching rivalry that enjoyed some incendiary moments when the former was in charge of England and the latter Australia.

Jones enjoyed very much the upper hand with England winning all seven tests, including the 40-16 thrashing of the Wallabies in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals that brought an end to Cheika's reign as Australia coach.

Cheika got some revenge when Argentina stunned England last November and presented a chilled demeanour on Thursday when he named his team for Saturday's clash a few hundred metres from Randwick's home ground, Coogee Oval.

"I think it's a different dynamic Australia-England, to Australia-Argentina, you know what I mean?" he told reporters when asked about the rivalry.

"He's a quality coach ... the biggest thing with that is he's a competitor and he wants to win. And I'm pretty much same. We come from the same place really, down at Coogee here. So that's the one thing you're going to get all the time."

Jones, who said it was "fantastic" to have both coaches in a test match from the same club, needs to start backing up his confident talk about Australia's chances of winning the World Cup with results.

Last week's 43-12 loss to a weakened Springboks team in Pretoria was Australia's worst for more than a decade but it was the manner of their performance that was most deflating for Wallabies fans.

The return of the Quade Cooper-Samu Kerevi combination at flyhalf and inside centre should help in attack but it is in the pack that the Wallabies need to show most improvement.

"We're going to fire up on Saturday," Jones said. "We're trying to create a squad that's capable of winning the World Cup, and that wins on Saturday."

Argentina fullback Emiliano Boffelli said the Pumas had retained their "inner belief" despite the 41-12 humbling at the hands of New Zealand last week.

They beat the All Blacks in New Zealand and thrashed Australia last year but Cheika has had to take a different approach to the Rugby Championship in his second year in charge.

With most of his squad playing in Europe, Cheika said he had forced his players to take a break to ensure they do not arrive at the World Cup having played two years of continuous rugby.

"We've got to make a combination of getting our players back right, getting them enough game time to try to get them ready, and also try and be performing for Rugby Championship too," Cheika added.

"And we know it's going to be tough early on ... but so long as we have the right attitude towards what we've got to do, then we'll pick up some results on the way and we'll improve towards the goal of the World Cup."

- Reuters