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Fearless Argentina have what it takes to beat the Wallabies at their own game

25 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Fearless Argentina have what it takes to beat the Wallabies at their own game

The speed of their development since joining the Rugby Championship means Pumas can cope with their lack of semi-final experience

It might come as a surprise to the casual observer that, given they required a dubious late penalty to sneak into the last four, Australia head into Sunday’s semi-final against Argentina as odds-on favourites.

Then again, inherited wisdom states that it is at this stage of the competition when form becomes less of a pressing concern and experience of the big occasion comes to the fore.

Australia have already reached three finals on their way to claiming two World Cups.

Both of those wins – in 1991 and 1999 – came when the tournament was held in the British Isles, and victory on Sunday would give the Wallabies the chance to continue their perfect record of taking over the Home Nations’ party.

Argentina meanwhile are seeking their first ever final appearance having only reached the semis once before in 2007, when they were beaten by eventual winners South Africa.

Intriguingly, this is just the second time that the two nations have met on neutral soil following a 32-19 pool stage win for the Wallabies back in 1991.

Having said that, this will represent the Wallabies’ fourth consecutive weekend playing at Twickenham – where they have never lost a World Cup game – so the place is probably starting to feel a bit like home.

Yet it is not just where Australia are playing their games at this tournament that has a bit of an upside-down nature, but how they are playing them as well.

Having struggled at scrum time for so long, ironically it is the former Argentina captain Mario Ledesma who has helped to turn the set piece into one of the Wallabies’ major strengths.

Losing Scott Sio to an elbow injury, however, means that they have lost the catalyst for their improvement.

Being able to call upon James Slipper – who will become Australia’s most capped prop forward in picking up his 73rd cap – is a more than adequate replacement, but whether he can provide the same impetus remains to be seen.

Argentina on the other hand, for so long characterised by their powerful scrum and appetite for keeping it tight, are now showcasing an entirely new brand of attacking rugby traditionally used by the other Southern Hemisphere superpowers.

Indeed, such is the amount of ball that they have seen, their two wingers in Juan Imhoff and Santiago Cordero have eight tries between them – and they are 5/2 and 3/1 to score at any time on Sunday.

Number eight David Pocock will be vital in trying to ensure that they do not add to that tally.

Despite only spending a total of 219 minutes on the field, the back-rower tops the charts for turnovers at this World Cup with 10 – and his disruptive influence at the breakdown will have a big effect in stopping the Pumas from spreading the ball wide quickly.

Yet the amount of time taken by Michael Cheika to delay naming his team suggests that Pocock is far from fully recovered from his calf strain, and is unlikely to be effective as normal when crouched over the ball.

Following their scare against Scotland, Australia could well look to play a more tactical game on Sunday – although that could well play into the Argentina’s hands.

Argentina have already scored six tries from kick returns – more than any other side – and their dangerous runners will relish the chance of running at a broken defence should Australia try and pin them back by kicking for territory.

Israel Folau on the other hand has looked a shadow of his usual self throughout the tournament, and with his rolled ankle apparently still causing him a problem Argentina will have no qualms about putting the ball in the full-backs court.

Five of the last seven meetings between these two sides have been decided by an average of four points either way, and Argentina priced at 6/1 to sneak it by 1-5 points this time around.

With injuries depriving Australia of their anchor in the scrum and likely to limit the effectiveness of their biggest danger in defence and most threatening runner in attack, big match experience can only get you so far.

Argentina v Australia match betting

READ: Relive the 4 greatest semi-final moments in the history of the Rugby World Cup