Date: Saturday 20th August
Location: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
While victory over England last week may have been a confidence boost, the 19-9 score line belied, what was in reality, a match that saw them come off second best. In particular, the Welsh set piece was beyond poor, bordering on the shambolic. While coach Warren Gatland can take a lot of positives out of the defensive effort from his side, Saturday’s tie with Argentina represents the last chance for Wales to produce a more all-rounded performance ahead of the Word Cup opener against South Africa. The final warm up match also represents the final chance for both those players on the fringes of the squad, such as Andy Powell to stake a claim, and for the likes of Adam Jones to regain their fitness ahead of that clash with the Springboks in Wellington.
Los Pumas World Cup build up has been oddly quiet. Saturday’s game is the first against a major rugby nation in 2011. Instead coach Santiago Phelan’s preparations have centred on matches with invitational sides. With a closely fought drawn series with the French Barbarians and a comfortable win over a South American XV. Since taking up the reigns from former coach Marcelo Loffreda, Phelan has had mixed results in the Argentinean hot seat. With the exception of a crushing home defeat of France, the South American country have yet to hit the heights of their third-placed finish at the 2007 World cup.
The last visit by an Argentina side to Cardiff in the autumn of 2009, saw them go down to a 33-16 defeat. But that test, like so many between World Cups, saw a Los Pumas side missing a number of key individuals. Apart from the massive gap left by one of their 2007 star’s in Juan Martin Hernandez, they appear much closer to full strength this time.
What to expect:
Argentina possess a pack that is equal to, if not as powerful as the English one Wales have come up against in the previous two weeks. With that in mind, it is hard to imagine that the visitors will not seek to play to their strengths, and the Welsh weakness. But limitations behind the scrum could prove to be the Argentineans downfall, with the absence of the creative spark of Hernandez. For Wales much will hinge on their ability to secure ball, something they have yet to do consistently in the last few season’s under Gatland. The selection of Martyn Williams tends to suggest we can expect a more expansive approach than recent weeks.
All eyes on:
Although only a late inclusion in Wales’s starting line-up due to injury, the spotlight is likely to be on Andy Powell. Even though the new Sale recruit has suffered a substantial fall from grace in recent seasons, but it is hard not feel that one big performance from the number eight would see him make the plane for New Zealand, such is the paucity of ball carrying forwards in Wales.
Powell’s opposite number on the Argentinean side Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe has been the go-to man for Los Pumas for a number of years now. A phenomenal work rate matched only by his presence, the Toulon man has a knack of producing big performances for his country.
Head to head: Rodrigo Roncero v Adam Jones
Even if Jones has developed into an international class scrummager, 34-year-old veteran Roncero still has the potential to provide a fierce test.
The lack of intensity in their World Cup build-up is likely to count against Argentina, even if Wales are fielding a number of players without any match time under their belts. That sharpness will translate into a narrow, albeit more convincing win than last week. Wales by 9.
by Paul French