Santa Fe - Opportunity knocks for several Wales fringe
players in Santa Fe Saturday as the tourists seek to complete a perfect
Americas adventure by defeating Argentina a second time.
Centre Owen Watkin and scrumhalf Aled Davies are among the
players keen to impress coach Warren Gatland as he continues to experiment.
Many coaches basking in the glory of a 23-10 triumph over
Argentina in San Juan last weekend would have given a vote of confidence to the
But the New Zealand-born coach is on a mission of discovery,
keen to add depth to his squad ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wales came to the Americas without some many of their big
hitters and began with a 22-20 win over South Africa in wet and humid
An Argentine team stacked with Jaguares who had won six
Super Rugby matches in a row were expected to bring the Welsh down to earth
with a thud.
But brave defending and clinical finishing delivered a
convincing victory for the visitors over the 2015 Rugby World Cup
"The Welsh team is in a good place," said a proud
Gatland. "We are on the right track toward the 2019 World Cup."
Emboldened by mastering the Pumas in San Juan, Gatland made
five changes, one enforced with inside centre Hadleigh Parkes injured.
Watkin replaces Parkes and the other backline change sees
Aled Davies inherit the scrumhalf shirt from Gareth Davies.
Both Watkin and Aled Davies can do their hopes of securing
tickets to Tokyo a lot of good with top-class performances in Santa Fe.
In the pack, hooker Ryan Elias, tighthead prop Tomas Francis
and flanker Ellis Jenkins come in for Elliot Dee, Dillon Lewis and Seb Davies.
Interestingly, Gatland has gone for two openside flanks in
Jenkins and James Davies, a star of the first Test.
They will form the backrow with Ross Moriarty, who started
in both previous Tests and made more tackles than anyone else in San Juan.
"We want to go home with three victories from three
Tests," stressed Gatland.
"But we know the challenge that we are up against this
weekend and we also are looking at the bigger picture.
"We might have picked a slightly different team if it
was just about results, but it is about more than that.
"It is about building for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in
While Wales believe they are on the right track, Argentina
have lost their way with 20 losses in 26 Tests since a better-than-expected
fourth place at the last World Cup in England.
Full of confidence because of the Jaguares' form, which
included a victory over twice Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs in New
Zealand, they were outthought and outfought.
The old 'Pumas' failing of not translating pressure into
points returned and clumsy handling cost them dearly a couple of times when the
tryline was in sight.
Skipper and flank Pablo Matera and his fellow forwards never
dominated the Welsh and looked demoralised long before the whistle sounded a
However, while Gatland has changed five of a winning team,
rival coach Daniel Hourcade settled for a solitary alteration to the team that
ran on in San Juan.
Veteran scrumhalf Martin Landajo starts in place of Gonzalo
Bertranou, who drops to the substitutes' bench.
Hourcade, the mastermind of the 2015 World Cup campaign,
will expect much more from his pack, particularly Matera, fellow flank Marcos
Kremer and inspirational hooker Agustin Creevy.
Wales have won four of seven Tests in Argentina and lost
three, scoring 207 points and conceding 200.
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de le Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
15 Hallam Amos, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Cory Hill (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tom Prydie