Argentina can beat the Wallabies if they pitch up with the same side, both mentally and physically, that beat the All Blacks writes James Dalton.
Look at the facts, the All Blacks have dominated world rugby for the last decade, never losing to Argentina before, nor two back to back tests in nine years. There are clearly issues in the All Blacks set up. But let the focus be on Argentina this week.
The Argentinians totally rattled the All Blacks early in the game, gained ascendancy and simply outclassed them for the duration of the contest. The All Blacks, under so much pressure, cracked in discipline – and this has become evident whenever they are under pressure, as it was a similar case when they lost the previous weekend to Australia.
Argentina won all the small battles. They dominated turnovers, carries, meters and tackles, indicating a comprehensive victory on both attack and defence. Argentina played rugby the way you are meant to, and kept the scoreboard ticking over. As Kitch Christie used to say to us, “Get that 13 point lead so that a team has to score twice”. In a big international contest, it is not easy to chase two tries. The 25-12 scoreline pointed to that same mindset from Matera’s men.
Argentina had 62 rucks in favour of them, of which they were able to recycle 96.9. This means that they were able to negate the area in which the All Blacks have always been dominant, and the contest which is becoming most decisive in rugby games (the ruck). The Pumas tackled chest high, negating offload ability and disrupting fluidity and manipulated the All Black pack with left and right shoulder scrums which neutralised flankers. They were strong in the defence of their lineout too, and to sum it up, they beat the All Blacks in a classic All Blacks style of rugby. They were better than them, on the day, at their own game.
Pablo Matera’s comment to Angus Gardner, when questioned on his pushing of New Zealand players, summed up the Argentinian attitude and passion. “I cannot see them kick one of my guys, it is not respect – I play for my country”. My hope is that this passion carries over to next week, along with the technical nous that the Argentinian side showed.
Australia and New Zealand drew in their first match, New Zealand responded with a convincing win and then in the third encounter Australia strangled out an ill-disciplined All Black showing. In emphatically making history by beating the All Blacks, the Argentinians showed that there is no clear best among the three sides at the moment, there is not one team that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The concern lies in the Argentinians inconsistent nature on the international stage, but one hopes that the Pumas don’t fall trap to their history against tier one nations when they face the Wallabies on Saturday.
In terms of team quality and performance, when you look to tackle efficiency, physical, set-piece and breakdown dominance, I don’t think Australia have it in them to match that sort of intensity and physicality. If Argentina can bring this same all round quality, matched with the passion that characterised their All Black win, they will beat Australia.
I would love to see Argentina go and back their performance up this weekend. It would be healthy for them, it would be healthy for World Rugby. In a similar way to the Springboks winning the World Cup, it balances the scales. It reminds the world that there can be a new standard set, and that standard is not All Black.