Wales tell Patchell to ‘get back on the horse’ after Twickenham
Head coach Warren Gatland using Tests against Argentina to assess his options
Rhys Patchell “started the Six Nations well, but found the step up against England a bit of a challenge”. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Rhys Patchell makes his first start for Wales since his uncomfortable evening at Twickenham in February when the swagger he had shown against Scotland the week before melted into uncertainty after the fly-half had been verbally targeted by the England head coach, Eddie Jones.
Dan Biggar and Gareth Anscombe have each twice worn the No 10 jersey since then but – with the former moving from Ospreys to Northampton and so curtailing his availability for the national side, and the latter not as adept as Patchell at getting his backline moving – the Scarlet has another opportunity 15 months out from the World Cup, with the Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, using the two Tests against Argentina to assess his options.
“Rhys started the Six Nations well, but found the step up against England a bit of a challenge,” Gatland said. “I don’t think it was down to the pressure but the intensity. We told him to get back on the horse quickly and he will be better for the experience, which I hope to see on Saturday.”
Anscombe played in the victory against South Africa in Washington last weekend without suggesting he was an upgrade on Biggar, one of several Lions Gatland has rested this summer. Patchell has fellow Scarlets inside and outside, with Wales looking to profit from the familiarity as they develop their expansive game. Patchell needs an inexperienced forward pack to deliver.
Gatland has chosen an eight with a combined cap total of 65, six fewer than the Argentina captain, Agustin Creevy. It is a bold selection in a country renowned for its set-piece prowess, but the Pumas no longer play 10-man rugby and, despite a dismal record since reaching the semi-final of the last World Cup, they are heartened by the performance of the Jaguares in Super Rugby this year.
The Jaguares are on course for the play-offs after six successive wins, and 14 of the starting line-up on Saturday played in the side’s last match, a 29-13 victory against the Sharks. The one exception, the former Leicester flanker Pablo Matera, was unavailable for that game.
“We must take advantage of all the good that has been done by the Jaguares,” said Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade, who has not enjoyed a notable success since victory against South Africa two years ago.
“Wales will study us not on how we played in November but on Super Rugby, so we must provide an element of surprise.” – Guardian service