Autumn Nations Series preview: Argentina to edge out Wales in Cardiff

Wales v Argentina preview pic ANS 2022.jpg Credit: Alamy
Wales v Argentina preview pic ANS 2022.jpg Credit: Alamy

Wales will be eager to get their Autumn Nations Series campaign back on track when they go head-to-head with Argentina at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

The home side will be out for revenge as they struggled against Los Pumas when these sides faced each other last year during a two-Test series in Cardiff, with the first match ending in a 20-20 draw before the visitors clinched a convincing 33-11 victory in the second fixture.

One thing which has been very noticeable about Wales in 2022 is that they are a very inconsistent side. They looked out of sorts in this year’s Six Nations opener against Ireland and eventually suffered a 29-7 defeat but bounced back with a 20-17 win over Scotland in their next match.

That raised expectations amongst their supporters but they had little to crow about during the remainder of the championship as they suffered losses to England and France – albeit narrowly – before their campaign finished on a forgetful note with a 22-21 defeat to perennial underachievers Italy.

Wales then headed over to South Africa for a three-Test series in July and despite being overwhelming underdogs, they were competitive in all three matches. They eventually lost that series but the Springboks were severely tested and Wales made history as they sealed their first ever victory on South African soil.

That meant they came into the Autumn Nations Series full of confidence ahead of their opening fixture against New Zealand, who have delivered a mixed bag of results in 2022, but Wayne Pivac‘s troops failed to make an impact as the All Blacks cruised to a 55-23 win.

Meanwhile, Argentina are a team on the rise and are heading towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup high on confidence as they have notched several momentous results in 2022.

The appointment of former Wallabies boss Michael Cheika at the start of the year appears to be a masterstroke and after claiming a 2-1 series win over Scotland in July, they were competitive in the Rugby Championship, where they secured impressive wins over New Zealand and Australia, before sealing a deserved 30-29 win over England last week – their first triumph at Twickenham in 16 years.

That sets them up nicely for this weekend’s clash with Wales and they will be backing themselves to emerge victorious in this fixture as well.

Where the game will be won

Both sides possess several game-changers throughout their ranks but, like most internationals, the forward battle will be huge and whoever wins the collisions up front will have half the battle won. For Wales, the likes of captain Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens, Will Rowlands and Dan Lydiate will have huge roles to play in that department while players like Julián Montoya, Pablo Matera, Tomás Lavanini and Matías Alemanno will be crucial to the Argentinian cause.

Discipline will also be crucial for both sides and this is an area which has proven to be problematic for the South Americans in the past with Lavanini, who is the most carded player – with three red cards and seven yellow cards – at Test level, someone who will be in the spotlight in that aspect of the game. In their previous match, against England, Argentina’s discipline was excellent and it is not a coincidence that they emerged as victors in that fixture. They will be hoping for a similar display in this clash.

Last time they met

What they said

Wales can ill afford a similar outcome to last weekend against the All Blacks and their defence coach Gethin Jenkins feels they have to be at their best to return to the victory trail against Los Pumas.

“They hardly touched the ball against England, yet still came away with a win,” he said. “That shows the quality they’ve got. It is going to be a very similar game to the ones we had with South Africa in the summer.

“They are that type of team that kicks a lot of ball. They have some very neat plays and a big influence from some of their coaches that we all know about.

“They are a bit of a mixed back, but another big challenge for us. They are very comfortable defending.

“The win they had against New Zealand, they seemed to be defending most of that game, so they are comfortably at getting up and making physical tackles, and they looked like they were comfortable on Sunday against England in terms of defending what England threw at them.

“We can’t play loose against them.”

After his side made the perfect start to their Autumn Nations Series campaign, with their memorable win over England, Argentina coach Cheika wants his team to build on that result.

“I want the attitude of always looking forward and wanting to improve. I can’t look back, I’d rather keep looking forward to next week,” said Cheika.

“We just need to keep working on the principles of our game and our mentality. We’ve been working on self-belief, understanding what we can do and what we are capable of, and making ourselves capable to go to the new standard.

“We’ve put together one or two results on the road this year but with time off in between. Now we can try and win away for a second successive weekend.”

Players to watch

With veteran full-backs Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny both ruled out through injury, the big news at Wales’ team announcement on Thursday was the selection of young Gloucester flyer Louis Rees-Zammit to wear the number 15 jersey for this encounter. The 21-year-old is one of the fastest players in the game and is renowned for scoring brilliant tries, since bursting onto the scene as a teenager a few seasons ago. With more space afforded to him at the back, than his usual position on the wing, he could wreak havoc once he builds up a head of steam on attack.

Another player crucial to the Welsh cause is experienced number eight Taulupe Faletau, who will be determined to help his team secure victory in this fixture as he is celebrating his 32nd birthday on Saturday. Faletau is one of the best players in his position in the world as illustrated by his performance against the All Blacks last weekend where, despite his side’s heavy defeat, he shone on attack and especially defence where he made 26 tackles without missing one. Wales supporters will be yearning for a similar effort from the 92-Test back-row against Los Pumas.

One player who has come to fore with several impressive displays for Argentina in 2022 is talented back Santiago Carreras. The 24-year-old initially made his mark as full-back and on the wing but has been playing at fly-half for Los Pumas since last year’s Rugby Championship and given a good account of himself. Blessed with plenty of pace and a fine skill-set, the Gloucester playmaker will be expected to provide direction on attack for the visitors and to unleash their dangerous outside backs. He is himself an accomplished attacker and will surely test the Welsh defence.

Also keep an eye on Argentina’s hooker Agustin Creevy, who comes in for injured captain Julian Montoya. The Leicester Tigers player has usurped the experienced Creevy and cemented himself as Los Pumas’ premier number two over recent years. He was magnificent against England and his absence will be keenly felt, unless his replacement can rekindle former glories. The 37-year-old is still going strong at London Irish but he has a big responsibility in Cardiff this weekend.

Main head-to-head

The battle between the openside flankers is usually fascinating in most internationals as these are the players who lead the charge in the breakdown battle and in Wales captain Justin Tipuric and Marcos Kremer of Argentina, we have two players who are in superb form. Both are genuine scavengers, who will put their bodies on the line in order to give their respective teams an edge and should be in the thick of the action from the outset.

Tipuric is the more experienced of the two, and will take the fight to Argentina as Wales look to bounce back with a statement triumph against a much improved Argentina outfit. The 33-year-old returned to the Test arena against New Zealand last weekend after a lengthy spell on the sidelines and showed that he is still a force at this level. He’s up against a shrewd opponent in Kremer, whose all-round game has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Both will give their all in a bid to gain the upper hand, especially at the breakdowns, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this duel.

Prediction

This is a tough one to call as these sides are evenly matched and don’t be surprised if this encounter goes down to the wire. However, the visitors have a more settled look about them and should be victorious, but only just. Argentina to win by three points.

Previous results

2021: Argentina won 33-11 in Cardiff
2021: The teams drew 20-20 in Cardiff
2018: Wales won 30-12 in Resistencia
2018: Wales won 23-10 in San Juan
2016: Wales won 24-20 in Cardiff
2013: Wales won 40-6 in Cardiff
2012: Argentina won 26-12 in Cardiff
2011: Wales won 28-13 in Cardiff

The teams

Wales: 15 Louis Rees-Zammit, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Jac Morgan, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Owen Watkin

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera (c), 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martín González, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Eliseo Morales, 22 Tomás Albornoz, 23 Matías Orlando

Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

READ MORE: Autumn Nations Series: Five storylines to watch this weekend including England desperate to bounce back

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