Argentina named an unchanged starting team for the third straight match as the Pumas seek to cap their Rugby Championship debut with a breakthrough win against injury-depleted Australia.
Coach Santiago Phelan resisted the temptation to revamp his lineup following last week’s 54-15 loss to inaugural champion New Zealand by making two alterations to the bench. Back-rower Leonardo Senatore replaces Tomas Vallejos and Nicolas Sanchez returns in place of injured full-back Martin Rodriguez.
Tournament newcomer Argentina is the favorite to win tomorrow’s match in Rosario with Australian bookmakers and seal its first victory in six southern hemisphere championship games.
“Australia is a very demanding rival, the No. 3 team in the world,” Phelan said on the Argentine rugby union’s website. “It has many injured players, but the replacements are first rate. It is a very balanced, complete team, who like us wants to finish the tournament in the best way.”
Australia yesterday made five changes to the lineup that started the 31-8 loss in South Africa six days ago. Winger Nick Cummins will make his debut and Ben Tapuai’s call up lifts the tally of players used by the Wallabies this season to 38.
First-choice players to have been ruled out by long-term injuries include lock James Horwill, open-side flanker David Pocock, scrum-half Will Genia and attacking back James O’Connor, while Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper joined the casualty list last week.
Cummins replaces Dominic Shipperley, who drops to the bench. Elsewhere in the backline, Mike Harris and Tapuai come in for Barnes and Ashley-Cooper at full-back and outside center, respectively. Harris, who will be the team’s fifth full-back this year, takes over as the main goalkicker.
In the forwards, Sitaleki Timani replaces Dave Dennis for his first Test as blindside flanker after playing six matches in the second row, while James Slipper was chosen at loosehead prop ahead of Benn Robinson.
“As with the backs, we’ve looked to increase our physicality to counter the direct force that will undoubtedly be coming the other way,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said in a team statement.
World champion New Zealand secured the title with a game to spare and would complete a sweep of victories by beating South Africa at FNB Stadium in Soweto tomorrow.
ARGENTINA: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla, Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Julio Farias Cabello, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ayerza, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Leonardi, Nicolas Vergallo, Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Imhoff.
AUSTRALIA: Mike Harris, Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Sitaleki Timani, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Kane Douglas, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson, Dave Dennis, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Dominic Shipperley.