Pumas and Wallabies in search of Twickenham flourish


Argentina and Australia will both be keen to end this year’s Rugby Championship in style when the southern hemisphere tournament breaks new ground with a match at Twickenham on Saturday.

The clash at England’s headquarters will be the first time a Rugby Championship fixture has been staged in the northern hemisphere, with organisers hoping to tap into the two countries’ expatriate following in London in the hope of a big crowd.

This weekend’s fixture gives Argentina, who’ve already defeated South Africa, one last chance to reach their stated ambition of two wins in this season’s edition.

For the faltering Wallabies, beaten 18-10 last weekend by the Springboks in Pretoria, Saturday’s match provides an opportunity to end a tough campaign on a high in a tournament where unbeaten New Zealand have long since made sure of the title.

Twickenham is a venue both teams know well, with Australia playing several matches there last year en route to their World Cup final defeat by New Zealand — including a 29-15 semi-final win over Argentina.

“Playing at Twickenham’s a great opportunity and whether the crowd is for or against us, as long as we’re united as a team, that’s all that matters to us,” said Australia fly-half Quade Cooper.

“That’s what we’re going to focus on, and the crowd can support whoever they want. We’re going to go out there united and do that best we can against Argentina.”

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika added: “I imagine Argentina have a reason for bringing their home game here.

“I think it’s exciting…playing Argentina in England back in the day, it was never even thought of, unless it was just a friendly game. But here you are.

“For us in Australia we only get a few games a year at home, and I think we’ve had all ours, and we love playing in front of our home crowd, so I wouldn’t be too keen on letting any of our home games go away. I can assure you of that.”

– Second is nothing –

For Juan Manuel Leguizamon, the veteran Pumas flanker who played in England for London Irish, a Test against Australia at Twickenham is the realisation of a dream.

“To be honest I would never have imagined we would be where we are when I started playing for the Pumas,” said Leguizamon, who made his Argentina debut in 2005.

“We’re very happy to have these opportunities.”

Should Australia defeat Argentina, they will likely finish runners-up in the tournament, provided New Zealand defeat South Africa.

Not that Cheika was concerned: “No one cares about second. Winners are winners, they’re the ones that count,” he said.

Australia have suffered six defeats in eight Tests since the World Cup, with Cheika blooding several youngsters — a process that is set to continue should Bath back-row Leroy Houston make his debut off the bench.

Wallaby No 8 Lopeti Timani is set for a first Test start after replacing the injured Sean McMahon.

The other change to the starting side beaten by the Springboks in Pretoria sees Rory Arnold take over from experienced lock Rob Simmons.

Australia might have won last weekend had they taken their chances and Cooper, who will have Bernard Foley alongside him at inside centre, said: “I guess that?s why the loss hurts so much because we left so many opportunities out there.

Meanwhile Argentina wing Manuel Montero and fly-half Nicolas Sanchez must both past late fitness tests if they are to face the Wallabies following the Pumas’ 36-17 defeat by New Zealand in Buenos Aires last week.

“We will give them every chance to prove their fitness,” said Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade.

“The fact that we are not playing at home probably generates something that is not so strong for the team, but on the other hand it’s very important to play at Twickenham in this type of game.”

© 2016 AFP

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