The IRB’s decision to concentrate its efforts on the development of second tier nations for the 2019 World Cup is extremely important for the future of the game, and for its growth as a global sport. Too often, these sides such as Japan, Georgia, USA and Canada, have hit a glass ceiling in their progression. The reason for this is simple. The top nations simply do not find it in their interests to play them. The games do not generate the necessary revenue, there is little at stake in terms of ranking points and with the draw for the 2019 World Cup being made in May next year, most top tier teams will want to gain as favorable a position as possible to avoid a potential ‘group of death’ scenario. However, the IRB have stuck to their guns, and have arranged several exciting match-ups, with many potential banana skin ties in store. The first of these is 2015 surprise package Japan, against Argentina. The two teams have met before on 5 occasions, with Japan winning once in 1998, and Argentina winning the rest.
Japan have launched into this autumn series with a whole host of issues. Their squad lacks experience – it includes 17 uncapped players, and they are missing key personnel, such as influential full-back Ayumu Goromaru. They were beaten twice at home by Scotland, but will feel that they can definitely improve. They will need to be more disciplined though, going down to 13 men as they did against Scotland is simply unacceptable at international level and Argentina will punish them if they can get the ball out of tackles quickly.
Argentina’s approach in their last game at Twickenham against Australia can be described as lacklustre at best or, at worst, completely criminally negligent. The intercept try scored by Australia was the result of an atrocious pass, and their defence needs serious shoring up. Argentina were so successful at the 2015 World Cup because they were able to combine the traditional physical, forward dominated style that the Pumas are famous for, with pace and imagination out on the wings. The second part has been lacking this past year.