Australia v Argentina in focus: Five talking points ahead of Saturday's match
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 15/09/17 8:04pm
Australia host Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Action, in a meeting between the two sides yet to taste victory in the competition.
Both Michael Cheika and Daniel Hourcade will be desperate for the points in Canberra.
Here a five key talking points ahead of clash...
Battle for the wooden spoon?
With both sides yet to win a game after three fixtures, is this match already a battle to avoid finishing bottom?
Argentina started the tournament in precarious fashion as they suffered a 37-15 defeat to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth, in a game in which they never really fired a shot.
A week later and things were, if anything, worse for the Pumas as they conceded 41 points at home to South Africa in a comprehensive 23-41 defeat. The most points they've conceded in a home fixture since October 2013.
Their best performance actually came against New Zealand in New Plymouth, where they illustrated their physicality and pushed the All Blacks in a 39-22 loss, giving Steve Hansen and his squad a little scare no doubt.
Such results mean Argentina sit on zero points, yet to escape with even a losing bonus point, and they will be under massive pressure against the Wallabies to produce something.
Australia sit on three championship points, courtesy of a losing bonus point in New Zealand from a game they would have been devastated not to win, and a home draw with the Springboks, which again would have left them distinctly flat.
A first-half horror show against New Zealand in Sydney aside, Cheika's charges have performed relatively well, particularly going forward.
A Beauden Barrett try with just two minutes left on the clock was the difference between victory and defeat in Dunedin, just a week after they had shipped 54 points at home to the All Blacks, while they led until 10 minutes to go in a tight game with the Boks.
The Wallabies will be aiming for two wins against the Pumas, and nothing less. In fact, the squad will probably be seeking a try bonus point or two.
Should they succeed in that on Saturday, they will head to Bloemfontein knowing only a victory will do, before the return clash with the Pumas in Mendoza.
Two-bonus point victories over Argentina, plus a win in South Africa, would still only leave the Wallabies on 17 points so the title would appear beyond them, but they could yet finish second.
History on Australia's side?
Saturday's fixture will be the 28th meeting between the pair in history, with previous results overwhelmingly in favour of Australia.
Of their 27 clashes to date, the Wallabies have won 21 of them, with the Pumas having won five times and there one draw.
Of the 13 matches to have previously taken place Down Under, Argentina have only ever won once, and that game was some 34 years ago.
Incredibly, Argentina's last (and only) victory on Australian soil came in July 1983, as Hugo Porta and co won 18-3 at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane.
The last time Argentina tasted success against the Wallabies at all came in October 2014, as they won 21-17 in Mendoza, and that result was the first success for 17 years.
The most recent meeting between these two was a 33-21 success for the Wallabies at Twickenham in the 2016 Rugby Championship.
Argentina will therefore also have the weight of history to contend with when they travel to face Cheika's men.
With the formation of the Jaguares Super Rugby franchise from the 2016 season, Argentina announced a new selection policy in which players in the European club scene would not be considered.
Pumas head coach Hourcade has been strongly in favour of the policy since its inception, but even he admitted at the end of August that he "wished Juan Figallo was here", the Saracens prop just one of a number of talented players not in the camp.
Racing 92 winger Juan Imhoff, with 21 tries in 35 Tests, is another player they are badly missing.
Argentina's standout player from the 2016 season, Facundo Isa, who has proven outstanding in the backrow on the world stage, has also been absent owing to the fact he is now at Toulon.
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Saracens centre Marcelo Bosch, Racing 92 second-row Manuel Carizza and Clermont's superb young fly-half Patricio Fernandez are all also ineligible for selection at the present time.
More than these players though, the majority of whom would go straight into the Argentina starting XV, the Pumas are also robbing themselves of valuable squad depth with the absence of several other players.
Newcastle Falcons centre Juan Pablo Socino, Toulon wing Axel Muller, Gloucester lock Mariano Galarza and Castres playmaker Benjamin Urdapilleta would all also be welcome additions to the set-up.
When Argentina first put this rule into action they were ranked number five in the world. They have now slipped to 10th, below Fiji.
Their defeat to New Zealand last time out was their 15th loss in their last 18 Tests, and most worrying for Hourcade is that the trend of players moving to Europe shows no signs of letting up.
Key tighthead Ramiro Herrera has agreed to join Stade Francais, while hooker Facundo Bosch is also on his way to the Top 14 with Agen.
Argentina do not have the playing resources of New Zealand or England, they just do not have the numbers to be able to successfully put in place such a restrictive selection policy.
As recently as 2013, 90 per cent of Argentinian internationals were playing in Europe. To adopt this measure so abruptly and rigidly and expect no drawback is unfeasible.
A consistent weakness in the Argentinian performances in 2017 has been the issue of discipline.
They have the worst disciplinary stats in the Rugby Championship, having conceded a massive 33 penalties over three games.
Before their last match with New Zealand, the Pumas had also received two yellow cards and a red card.
Such stats and instances eradicate almost any positive platform to go and succeed in matches, and though they didn't receive a card against the All Blacks, they still conceded 10 penalties.
It will be almost impossible for them to win games without cleaning up their act and the statistics, in general, do not paint the Pumas in a good light.
They have only scored a tournament-low five tries (six less than the next lowest), and have recorded the least metres made, clean breaks and offloads in the competition.
Cheika has made two changes to his squad for Saturday, as lock Rob Simmons moves up from the bench at the expense of Rory Arnold in the only change to the starting line-up.
The uncapped Marika Koroibete has been named on the bench in place of his fellow former rugby league winger Curtis Rona.
Hourcade has made four changes to his starting side for Saturday's Test, and that after having made seven changes for last week's 39-22 loss to New Zealand.
Ramiro Moyano and Matias Orlando return on the wing and at outside-centre respectively, while Emiliano Boffelli moves from the wing to full-back in place of Joaquin Tuculet.
Martin Landajo will start at scrum-half ahead of Tomas Cubelli, while Hourcade plumps for a fourth No 8 in as many Tests in the pack by giving Tomas Lezana his first start.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3 Sekope Kepy, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Ned Hanigan, 7 Michael Hooper, 8 Sean McMahon.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Marika Koroibete.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo; 1 Lucas Noguera, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 4 Guido Petti, 5 Matias Alemanno, 6 Pablo Matera, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 8 Tomas Lezana.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Manuel Montero.