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Wallabies, Pumas set for 1st of 2 Rugby Championship matches

·3 min read

Australia coach Dave Rennie says the formula his team used to beat South Africa twice in consecutive Rugby Championship matches should work again on Saturday in the first of two against Argentina.

It just might take a while.

“What we’ve learned over the last few weeks is you’ve got to hang on in the fight for a long time, and sometimes it takes 60 or 70 minutes to crack a side,” Rennie said ahead of the match at Townsville in north Queensland state. “So we need to see that resilience on the weekend.”

Argentina is winless in four Rugby Championship matches — losing twice each to South Africa and New Zealand. The Wallabies, 2-2, sit one point behind South Africa in the standings, with New Zealand unbeaten after four games.

New Zealand plays South Africa in the 100th match between the teams in the first match of the Saturday doubleheader at Townsville.

Next weekend, the same teams play again in the final round on the Gold Coast. Most of the tournament has been played in Queensland state due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions and quarantines.

Rennie said he knows a side like Argentina with nothing to lose can be as dangerous as any.

“They are a bit different, they’ll want to express themselves, their forwards throw a lot more passes,“ Rennie said. “They’ll counter when given the opportunity — they’re very good at it. They’re also really good at filling the field, very disciplined around the defense and it can be hard to break down.”

Australia is looking to win three matches in a row for the first time since 2017.

On Thursday, Rennie named Reece Hodge at fullback, the end of five consecutive test appearances off the bench for the Melbourne Rebels player. He'll replace Tom Banks, who broke his right arm midway through the first half of Australia's 30-17 win over the Springboks last weekend.

Fellow Rebels player Rob Leota earned his first start for Australia, at blindside flanker. He and Hodge are two of three changes to the matchday squad with playmaker James O’Connor set to make his first international appearance for the year from the reserves.

Argentina's starting XV is unchanged from the side which lost to New Zealand 36-13 last weekend in Brisbane.

The only changes were in the reserves, where prop Rodrigo Martinez was included instead of Carlos Muzzio, flanker Joaquin Oviedo for Tomas Lezana, and wing Mateo Carreras instead of Matias Moroni, who had a broken nose.

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said he saw some improvements in last weekend's loss to New Zealand, but said his team was still lacking the ability to turn chances into points.

Ledesma praised the Wallabies, admitting they look like a different side from last year when the teams played two draws in the tournament.

“I think Australia is a different beast than what it was last year,” Ledesma said. “They’re much more confident, they’ve had better results and very good content against South Africa. It’s a great challenge to play them on the weekend.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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