Argentina’s Hernandez gets final chance to impress

Outhalf needs a big display against Namibia to secure quarter-final starting place

Argentina’s Juan Martin Hernandez in action against Georgia. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Argentina’s Juan Martin Hernandez in action against Georgia. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

 

Argentina’s Juan Martin Hernandez has been given a chance to play himself back into the Pumas side for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with an outing at outhalf in the final Pool C clash against Namibia in Leicester.

The 2007 semi-finalists are not yet assured of second place in the pool and a place in the knockout stages but even if Tonga stun New Zealand on Friday, will be confident of securing the point they need tomorrow.

Hernandez returns after missing Argentina’s victory over Tonga with a muscle tear and coach Daniel Hourcade will be looking for him to prove his fitness for a spot in the centres for the quarter-final against Ireland or France.

The 33-year-old will make just his third start at number 10 in the last three years, the others being Argentina’s famous 37-25 victory over South Africa in Durban in August and the 20-18 win in Italy last November.

Both sides have made 11 changes to their starting sides with lock Guido Petti, blindside flanker Pablo Matera, scrumhalf Martin Landajo and outside back Matias Moroni retaining their places for Argentina.

“It’s good that all the players are okay and we believe it’s good to give the others some minutes, we have a very even squad,” said Hourcade.

“We want to finish the group phase well, improve defensive aspects because we weren’t aggressive enough against Tonga and our finishing because we had some good movements but in some of them we didn’t finish well.”

Best chance

They go into this final fixture without inspirational captain Jacques Burger, ruled out after picking up a concussion early in their midweek game, or outstanding number eight Renaldo Bothma. Bothma was banned for two weeks after being cited for a dangerous tackle against Georgia.

Victory for Namibia would be a major surprise, but coach Phil Davies said: “If we go out with that guts, character, determination, anything can happen in a game of rugby.”

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