Welsh Coach Wayne Pivac could not have asked for a better test for his young bucks than a full strength Argentinian side looking to make a point in Cardiff and beyond. We can’t help feeling that tomorrow’s Test match has slightly slipped off the radar for everyone except the two teams involved, as it lives in the shadow of the Australia/France series and the continuing high stakes drama of the Lions tour to South Africa. However, you’re in for a treat tomorrow afternoon, and we’d argue that this and France’s showdown with Australia are the games of the weekend. Argentina will feel that they missed a golden opportunity last weekend, but will be seeking to make amends ahead of a challenging two months which sees them take on fellow Southern Hemisphere rivals, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Wales will want to show that they have the depth necessary to go deep into the next World Cup, as with the bulk of their first choice team away on Lions duty, tomorrow’s match day squad blends an exciting combination of raw youth and some experienced heads. It will be a big ask for them against a fired up Pumas squad, but in terms of preparations with an eye to the World Cup, Coach Wayne Pivac and his charges must be relishing the opportunity to prove themselves.
So here’s what got us talking about tomorrow’s festivities in Cardiff.
The Welsh second row are in danger of getting monstered by these two
Spare a thought for Welsh newbie Ben Carter in the second row. Imagine facing a world class wrecking machine like Argentina’s Marcos Kremer on only your second cap. Will Rowlands has a little more time under his belt at nine caps but facing Guido Petti is always a frightening prospect especially when he’s sporting a Phantom of the Opera face mask. Unfortunately for Wales, the Pumas duo got the better of their Welsh counterparts last Saturday by a long margin. Pumped up and looking to win the series, the two Argentinians are going be even more menacing. If the Welsh pair can weather the storm on Saturday, then it will be a real testimony to the kind of confidence Wayne Pivac can instill in his young charges. They were found wanting last weekend and it will be fascinating to see what if any difference a week will have made now the initial shock has worn off.
Back where he belongs
This is another area of the park which based on last week’s evidence we expect to see Argentina dominate. Flanker Facundo Isa is back to his very best, and relishing being alongside former Captain Pablo Matera. Rodrigo Bruni, seems to be building on his breakthrough from last year, and it’s a daunting trio to say the least. Wales’ Josh Turnbull gets the start this week after replacing the injured Aaron Wainwright last weekend, and he was really the only part of the Welsh back row that stood up to the challenge. Much like the shock and awe campaign likely to be waged by the Pumas second row, the Argentinian back row look more than capable of stunning their Welsh opponents into submission. If the Welsh forward pack can come out of Saturday’s proceedings with significantly more credit than they were able to manage last weekend, then some solid depth will have been built under the most testing of circumstances. Ross Moriarty is well known for his rather combative nature but even he was struggling to assert his trademark physicality on proceedings last weekend for Wales.
Wales most exciting prospect for a while
One thing Wales excels at is producing dynamic, lightning quick scrum halves who love scoring tries. Tomos Williams is just such a player. What is perhaps surprising is that he only has 23 caps to his name. He was more than a match for Argentina’s Tomas Cubelli last weekend, and appears to be hitting a run of form which could well see him making the nine jersey his for quite some time and definitely get the nod for the number one choice for Welsh World Cup plans. Although Keiran Hardy is breathing down his neck for the nine jersey, once Williams replaced him last week it was clear to see that Williams has the big game mentality that Wales need for an encounter of the type of intensity they will be facing tomorrow.
Wales in duelling with a master, try to find their second choice fly half
Despite Callum Sheedy’s stellar performance against England in the recent Six Nations for Wales, he just didn’t make his mark against Pumas Maestro Nicolas Sanchez. This weekend Welsh Coach Wayne Pivac continues to seek an understudy for Dan Biggar by giving Cardiff Blues sensation Jarrod Evans a bite at the cherry. If Evans can translate his club form to the Test arena then Pivac will have a wealth of options at his disposal come the November Internationals and beyond. We feel it’s a bit harsh that Sheedy has to sit this one out on the bench, but such is the competition for places in the Welsh squad these days. Evans made a difference last weekend when the roles were reversed and it will be fascinating to see if the same happens this weekend, with Sheedy making his mark off the bench.
Just one aspect of an Argentine star studded set of backs
Argentina’s star studded set of backs list like a who’s who of Test Rugby back play. Jeronimo de la Fuente was outstanding in the centres last weekend and this Saturday is partnered by the powerful and exciting Santiago Chocobares. The wings are populated by Matias Moroni and the welcome return of Bautista Delguy, with the impressive newcomer Santiago Carreras shoring up the fullback slot. The Welsh set of backs simply didn’t live up to the task as a unit last weekend. There were some promising individual performances at times by Owen Lane and Hallam Amos but for the most part they were overshadowed by their Pumas rivals by a considerable margin. Jonathan Davies is sadly past his best playing days in the centres for Wales, and the Welsh offering simply can’t match the kind of pace and creativity that Argentina is able to put on display. It could be a very long afternoon for Wales in this part of the park tomorrow, as Argentina’s backs are as physical as they are fast.
In short, it should be a cracking Test match tomorrow. Provided Argentina can keep their discipline and avoid the costly red card they were shown in the opening Test, it’s hard to see anything other than a win by the South American powerhouse, who are fortunate to have the full complement of front line players at their disposal. Welsh players and supporters though should be equally excited at the opportunity for many of their own up and coming players to have a second crack at one of the World’s best Test sides. Either way, you’re going to want to make sure you’re close to a television or computer tomorrow afternoon.
Enjoy some great rugby this weekend. With the start of the Springboks Tests against the Lions next weekend, our focus will naturally shift to that, even though we haven’t given much coverage to the Lions warmup matches against provincial sides up till now. Take care everyone and stay safe!