Unchanged Argentina aim to go the distance


ARGENTINA WILL be unchanged against New Zealand in their Rugby Championship match in La Plata on Saturday, coach Santiago Phelan said as he picked the same side that lost to Australia. “Our objective is to improve match by match. In defence the players are full of confidence, we’re getting better and as a consequence the results will follow,” Phelan said after naming his team at their base 45km north of the capital.

“To play this tournament implies effort rather than pressure. I single out the valour, commitment, heart and passion of the team,” he added. “Saturday’s goal will be to avoid the drain of the final minutes,” said Phelan, whose team were 13 points ahead of the Wallabies before conceding two tries in the final quarter as they lost 23-19 to Australia in the Gold Coast on September 15th.

Phelan made two changes to his bench, bringing in prop Marcos Ayerza for Juan Pablo Orlandi and backrow Tomas Vallejos for Leonardo Senatore.

The Pumas, hosting the match (12.10am Sunday morning) in the provincial capital La Plata 60km southeast of Buenos Aires, are looking to beat the world champion All Blacks for the first time and prevent them clinching the trophy with a match to spare.

New Zealand, who have won their four games so far, need one more victory to be sure of the title before their final match against South Africa in Johannesburg on October 6th. The Springboks face Australia in Pretoria this Saturday in their penultimate match.

Argentina have lost their three away matches in their first season in the new four-nation Southern Hemisphere championship, their first major annual competition, and secured a 16-16 draw at home to South Africa last month.

Outhalf Daniel Carter looks like being fit for the game, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. The All Blacks know a victory will land them the crown regardless of what happens in South Africa’s clash with Australia. “He’s training like he’s ready to play, so as long as he continues to progress he’ll be playing,” Hansen told a news conference at the team’s hotel in Buenos Aires yesterday. “He came through today’s session pretty good. We pulled him out after about 45 minutes and he wasn’t overly happy about that, he wanted to do a bit more so that was a good sign.”

Carter missed New Zealand’s last two matches, home victories over Argentina and South Africa, with a calf injury. He also missed New Zealand’s triumphant World Cup campaign last year after tearing his groin in training.

The world champions know Argentina are very tough opponents on home soil and are also learning fast with each game in their first major annual tournament. Hansen expects the Pumas pack to try to dominate as they did in their previous home match, a 16-16 draw with South Africa, and also in their defeats away to New Zealand and Australia.

He is wary too of Argentina’s growing confidence as evidenced by their scoring two tries against the Wallabies and running up a 13-point lead before going down 23-19. “They started to use the ball a bit against Australia and looked really dangerous so they might get some confidence out of that and maybe play some more rugby,” Hansen said. “I think they’ve just got to play for 80 minutes. I think with more consistent quality opposition they’re getting in this championship they’re going to improve in that area and they’re going to be very hard to beat.

Hansen thinks Carter’s playmaking abilities can help tip the balance earlier at La Plata than in Wellington where the Pumas were only 9-5 down until the final quarter of an hour before the All Blacks won 21-5.

ARGENTINA: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla; Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo; Rodrigo Roncero, Eusebio Guinazu, Juan Figallo, Manuel Carizza, Patricio Albacete, Julio Farias Cabello, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt). Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ayerza, Tomas Vallejos, Tomas Leonardi, Nicolas Vergallo, Martin Rodriguez, Juan Imhoff.

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