Rugby Championship

Oz seek another win over Pumas

2014-10-03 12:06
Kurtley Beale and Ewen McKenzie (Getty Images)

Mendoza - Australia hope to end a troubled week by stretching a record winning streak against Argentina to 10 matches Saturday in Mendoza.

Since suffering a narrow loss in Buenos Aires 17 years ago, the Wallabies have achieved six home and three away victories over the Pumas.

It is a successful run that will bring some cheer to Australia coach Ewen McKenzie as he surveys the damage of a week from hell.

The drama began last Sunday over the Atlantic when talented but troublesome utility back Kurtley Beale had a heated verbal argument with Wallabies business manager Di Patston.

Neither the reason for the row nor the words exchanged have been revealed, but the official flew home in midweek while Beale remained but was excluded from the match-day squad.

It took the weary Wallabies 24 hours to reach Buenos Aires from Cape Town, where a late implosion led to a 28-10 defeat by South Africa.

Missing luggage only added to the visitors' frustrations.

"It is always disappointing when you have distractions that are not rugby related," admitted McKenzie, "but you have to deal with them."

The coach, who missed the first training session as he dealt with the Beale affair, was forced into two changes from the side that began against the Springboks.

Regular lock Rob Simmons, commander-in-chief at line-out time, was ruled out by concussion and his place goes to former Wallabies skipper James Horwill.

No. 8 Ben McCalman was another Cape Town casualty, hurting his shoulder, and up steps Scott Higginbotham for a first Test start in 22 months.

Promoting Horwill and Higginbotham, excluding Beale and dropping reserve hooker James Hanson means only four of the eight South Africa replacements survive.

They are wing Rob Horne, scrumhalf Nic White and experienced props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander.

Joining them are hooker Josh Mann-Rea, lock Will Skelton and loose forwards Jake Schatz and Matt Hodgson in a six-two, forwards-backs split.

"We feel this combination offers us the vigour and intensity needed in attack and defence during the closing stages," explained McKenzie.

A birth, Test weariness and form led Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade to change five of the run-on side in a 34-13 home defeat by New Zealand last Saturday in La Plata.

Outstanding flank Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has returned to France to be with his wife after the birth of their second child.

Tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera and outside centre Marcelo Bosch are dropped to the bench following exhaustive Test schedules.

Martin Landajo starts and Tomas Cubelli is on the bench in a scrum-half swap and defensively-fragile left-wing Manuel Montero is omitted from the match-day 23.

Into the starting side at the 40 000-seat Estadio Malvinas Argentinas come flank Rodrigo Baez, prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, centre Horacio Agulla and wing Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

The absence of vastly experienced back-row pair Lobbe and calf-strain victim Juan Manuel Leguizamon is a major double blow to Argentine hopes of a first Championship victory.

Since debuting in 2012, the Pumas have lost 16 Tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and drawn with the Springboks in Mendoza.

"We are hoping for our best performance this season," said Hourcade, who labelled a 32-25 Gold Coast loss to Australia last month the "worst".

"Unforced errors cost us points against New Zealand, but I draw hope from our strong finish," said the 56-year-old who succeeded Santiago Phelan last year.


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