Test Match Preview
ARGENTINA VS WALES
Estadio del Bicentenario, San Juan
Local time kick off 16:40, 20:40 GMT, SA Time – 22:40
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mathieu Raynal (France)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Roll back the months to 2017 and the betting would have been on a Wales team, any Wales team, to easily beat the Pumas.
The majority of the Argentinean team is comprised of Jaguares players who participate in the Super Rugby competition. The national team’s form tends to follow the form of the Super Rugby team, and, frankly, the 2016/17 Jaguares were awful.
2018 started badly for the Jaguares too, as they lost four of their first five games. If this trend had continued, the betting would still have favoured the Welsh.
But then something happened in Argentina.
The Jaguares went over to Australia, and found their game! The recent upsurge in their performance has resulted in a six-game winning streak. Their best ever in Super Rugby, and a streak that signals that their players have found form and confidence.
All of those Jaguares will now don a Pumas shirt and represent their country in the Test series against Wales.
Their Jaguares form suggests that they are favourites to win the series.
Wales are making much of their win in Washington over a South African team that certainly did not represent the best that country has to offer. Wales scraped that win despite being overshadowed in most aspects of the game.
They are talking the win up as if it were a major victory, but the truth is that their own performance and the team they put on the field is nowhere near the full strength team they have left at home.
This is not going to be an easy trip for the men from the valleys of Wales.
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has announced his side that will face off with Wales at Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario on Saturday.
This Pumas outfit has just one change to the Jaguares’ line-up that last ran out in Super Rugby, as Pablo Matera returns from injury and comes in on the flank for Tomas Lezana.
Agustin Creevy takes over as national captain, a job he relinquished to flanker Matera in the Jaguares set-up. He captains the side from hooker in a solid looking pack that includes the in-form duo Marcos Kremer and Javier Ortego Desio.
Gonzalo Bertranou gets the nod alongside Nicolas Sanchez in the half-backs while Ramiro Moyano and Bautista Delguy are dangerous wings.
Cory Hill will lead Wales against Argentina on Saturday in a side that contains eight personnel changes from the XV that beat South Africa.
Hill, one of two tour co-captains, will lead his country for the first time in the first of two Tests against the Pumas.
Hill will pack down alongside Adam Beard in the second-row and there is one change in the front-row with Wyn Jones coming into the side to start alongside Elliot Dee and Dillon Lewis.
Seb Davies and Ross Moriarty remain in the back-row and are joined by James Davies at openside flanker.
Scarlets half-backs Gareth Davies and Rhys Patchell are named at nine and ten with Hadleigh Parkes partnering Scott Williams in the midfield. George North, Josh Adams and Hallam Amos are named as the back-three.
Ryan Elias, Rob Evans and Tomas Francis provide the front-row cover on the bench with Josh Turnbull and uncapped back-row Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe and Owen Watkin provide the back-line cover.
A week ago the Welsh scrum creaked and groaned when the South Africans unleased their front row bench of Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit and Akker van der Merwe. Despite sending on their own substitutes, the Welsh were in trouble at every scrum. Argentina are a side renowned for a fearsome scrum, although they did struggle to live up to their reputation in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, they have found their game in 2018. The starting front row of Chaparro, Creevy and Botta is formidable in its own right, and it is backed by some pretty solid scrummagers in replacements Julian Montoya, Javier Diaz, and Santiago Medrano.
The Welsh might feel that they have been reinforced by the arrival of Tomas Francis, who will start off the bench, but their stocks look a little thin in this Theatre of the Darks Arts.
The two sets of second-rowers also suggest the Pumas have a slight edge in resources. Cory Hill and Adam Beard versus Tomas Lavanini and Guido Petti seems weighted towards the latter pairing.
It is the Puma loose trio that appears to be much stronger than that of the Welsh. Marcos Kremer has been one of the stars for the Jaguares this season, switched from lock to the back-row, he has found his game and has produced some stellar rugby in the 7 Jersey. He is a giant of a man with real pace and power, supported by Matera and Desio this is a backrow that is set to cause an inexperienced Welsh pack some problems.
Wales might have an edge at scrumhalf, where the experience and nous of Gareth Davies takes over from last week’s debutant Tomos Williams.
The two flyhalves seem fairly evenly matched, though Nicholas Sanchez has been in a rich vein of form, especially with his boot, while Rhys Patchell has replaced Gareth Anscombe for this game, and may be slightly rusty.
At the back, the Argentineans have some finishers in good form too. Bautista Delguy, Ramiro Moyano and Emiliano Boffelli have been dangerous with the ball in hand and very good under the high ball too. Boffelli brings a long range boot to the mix. Wales will need to shut them down quickly or they may spend the afternoon chasing heels.
The Jaguares form will be carried over into the Puma jersey. Argentina by 12.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de le Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
Wales: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Seb Davies, 5 Cory Hill (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Owen Watkin