WHO will join New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Final? Our man Russ Petty (rpetty80) previews the second semi for us.
Argentina v Australia | Sunday 16:00 | ITV1
Argentina received plenty of praise for their attacking play during the pool stage and their fan club has increased after an impressive 43-20 win against Ireland in the quarter-final.
They’ve scored 222 points in their previous five matches and are averaging 655 metres carried per game in this World Cup, along with 33 defenders beaten. The 2007 team that reached the semi-final may have played like South Africa but this group could be better associated with New Zealand.
Their inclusion in the Rugby Championship has been a factor in their change in style and they have benefitted from first the consultancy of World Cup winning coach Graham Henry and then later the appointment of Daniel Hourcade.
Argentina’s average score against Rugby Championship opposition was 33-14 from 2012-13 and then 28-18 since Hourcade took charge.
Los Pumas aren’t the only team that looked to improve a weakness before this tournament. Australia coach Michael Cheika has established a tough edge in his team now and with former Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma brought about a change in attitude towards the scrum. That was evident in the performance against England in the pool stage and combined with the defensive effort against Wales there are the signs that this is a resilient, united squad.
There was criticism after the scare against Scotland in the previous round, but Australia did still score five tries in that match and failed to convert several more good scoring opportunities. They also conceded 17 turnovers that match, had just 57% accuracy at goal and leaked both an intercept and charge-down try. It would be surprising if there was a similar error count again this week.
The Wallabies have won their previous 12 games with Wayne Barnes as referee, going back to 2009. That includes a 23-19 victory over this opponent in 2012 and 54-17 thumping in Mendoza in 2013.
The latter did come near the end of previous coach Santiago Phelan’s reign, while Argentina’s only recent win against Australia occurred in similar circumstances – this time with Ewen McKenzie resigning shortly after a 21-17 loss in 2014.
There are a few concerns for Argentina going into this match. They’ve missed an average of 25 tackles so far, compared to 15 by Australia. They also need to back up an emotionally draining victory from last week.
In contrast, all the talk after Australia’s quarter-final was about the late penalty decision and the referee. Michael Cheika took the blame for his team “not fulfilling its potential” against Scotland, but will likely get the preparation right this time. Australia are 2.75 to win by a margin of 1-12 points.
Argentina v Australia – Australia 1-12 margin (7/4 Sportingbet)