September 14, 2017 / 9:40 AM / a year ago

Rebuilding Wallabies, Pumas desperate for maiden win

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia and Argentina are in the process of rebuilding towards the 2019 World Cup but test rugby is a results-based business and both will be desperate for a first Rugby Championship win of the season when they meet in Canberra on Saturday.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika attends a news conference after the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw at Kyoto State Guest House in Kyoto, Japan May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika might only have tinkered around the edges of the team that drew 23-23 with South Africa last week but winger Marika Koroibete would become the 22nd new cap blooded in the last two seasons if he comes off the bench.

Cheika was left brooding in frustration in Perth last Saturday after his side gave up a 20-10 second half lead over the Springboks, having also seen an early 17-0 advantage disappear in a loss to the All Blacks in their previous match.

He will certainly be hoping his improving Wallabies can keep their foot on the gas if they get in front at Canberra Stadium, especially as they will be on the road in South Africa and Argentina for their last two matches in the competition.

Matches between the two countries are generally high-scoring affairs with the points tally in last year’s clashes, both won by Australia, exceeding the 50-mark.

Like the Wallabies, after running New Zealand close in Dunedin in round two, the Pumas have taken some encouragement from a battling defeat against the All Blacks in New Plymouth last week.

Coach Daniel Hourcade has nevertheless re-jigged his backline for Saturday’s clash and selected Tomas Lezana, who usually plays at flanker, as his fourth number eight in as many matches.

Australia number eight Sean McMahon is also more usually seen in a number seven shirt but Cheika thought Hourcade’s selection was more about exploiting a perceived Wallabies weakness at the breakdown.

“You’d have to think, looking at the team they’ve picked, they’re going to go hard on the ball on the ground,” Cheika told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“That wasn’t a strong area for us in the first half last week. I think they’ll do what they’ve done before, move the ball around, try and take us in the middle first... then they’ll try and shift it to their pace out wide.”

Lezana’s back row colleague Pablo Matera said the Pumas were wary of the backline challenge they would face in in-form centre Kurtley Beale, adding that it was essential that the visitors got off to a good start on Saturday.

“I know they need to win, same as us, it’s going to be a really difficult match,” Matera said.

“The first minutes of the game are really intense and I believe if we manage to do a really good first half, like we did last week, I think we’ll have a lot of chances to win the game.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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