Argentina are underdogs against Wales – Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika insists Argentina are underdogs against Wales on Saturday despite beating England at Twickenham.

Argentina overcame England 30-29 to claim only their second victory at Twickenham, while Wales opened their Autumn Nations Series campaign with a humbling 55-23 defeat to New Zealand.

Wales conceded eight tries and head coach Wayne Pivac bemoaned his side’s lack of physicality after the All Blacks turned on the style in Cardiff, but Cheika is expecting the hosts to be fired up this weekend.

“When you come away from home in rugby, you are always the underdog,” former Australia boss Cheika said after naming an unchanged side and the same 23 who were on duty at Twickenham.

“When you walk out on to the Principality Stadium and there are however many thousands of Welsh people there, supporting their team, you are the underdog.

“Honestly, I don’t see anyone coming to Cardiff as favourites. It’s such a difficult place to come to in that atmosphere.

“You’ve got to be so good on game day to be in the contest. We know we will be in the minority, but that challenge of playing in the big theatres when you are the opposition is a really enjoyable one.

“You have got to get the thrill of being the enemy on the day and embrace it.”

England v Argentina – Autumn International – Twickenham Stadium
Argentina players celebrate their 30-29 victory over England at Twickenham (Ben Whitley/PA)

Argentina appear to be in a good place less than a year out from the World Cup in France.

Los Pumas have beaten Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and England since Cheika took over in March.

But Cheika, who coached his native Australia between 2014 and 2019, preferred to talk up Wales rather than his own team at their Cardiff hotel.

He said: “I know another team that shipped eight tries against the All Blacks not too long ago, us.

“I know how powerful Wales can be. It can happen in games, sometimes it just gets away from you.

“I have been here too many times to know what this Welsh team brings and how they are at the stadium.

“They have a very good counter-attacking game and good ball runners in the wide channels, both backs and back row, so we are going to have our hands full defending.

“We need to be really good on the details of our game and mentally to be in the contest.”

Cheika has been able to give his full focus to Los Pumas this week as he was previously combining his Argentina duties with that of being Lebanon coach at the Rugby League World Cup.

Lebanon v Ireland – Rugby League World Cup – Group A – Leigh Sports Village
Michael Cheika oversaw Lebanon’s run to the quarter-finals of the Rugby League World Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

Lebanon went out to Australia at the quarter-final stage and Cheika said: “It was one of the best experiences I have had in sport.

“From the heritage point of view (Cheika’s parents immigrated to Australia in the 1950s), to be coaching a team like that in another sport was great.

“It was very different because of the variance of player level. We had amateurs, who would go to work every day and then train at night, playing alongside professionals.

“I had a great coaching team with me and we just had a really good time. It gave me a heap of energy for coaching and I really enjoyed it.”