Before I began writing this preview there were at least two positives I could pick out from Wales performance against Australia. The first is that Hallam Amos was a standout performer, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abject Welsh performance. Unfortunately, in the time it has taken me to put pen to paper he has injured himself, and has been replaced by teenager Keelan Giles. The second is that things really can’t get much worse, so the only way is up. The momentum for this one is undeniably with the Pumas, who battered Japan 54-20 at the weekend, whereas Wales have now lost 5 games in a row, conceding 26 tries in the process, and are tumbling down the rankings at an alarming rate. With the World Cup groups being drawn at the end of next years 6 Nations, both of these teams need to be within the top 8 in order to avoid any potential ‘Group of Death’ scenarios (not that this ultimately was a problem for Wales last time around).
In terms of past matches, Wales thrashed Argentina 40-6 on their last meeting and lead the head-to-head record 10-5. Argentina however, have come a long way since the last meeting back in 2013, and regular competition against the top southern hemisphere countries have dragged Argentine rugby to a new level. As they did against Japan last weekend, Argentina will look to build on what they did well against Japan. They will try to suck Welsh players into tackles before quickly off-loading and exploiting the gaps in the defense that this leaves. This will be backed by traditional Argentinian physicality by the forwards, who will look to dominate the scrum, and they will not be afraid to crash the ball over the line should they get into a position to do so.
The key areas for Welsh improvement are in defense. Against Australia, they missed key tackles, especially leading up to the Kuridrani and Foley tries. They also need to get their hands on the ball. Anyone who watched the game on TV will have noticed John Inverdale’s ridiculously tiny A5 possession graph that he was given in place of CG graphics, but the point still stands that you cannot expect to win games (or in fact do anything at all) with such a small share of the possession. They also need to be much better organized, and effectively recycle the ball when it is taken into contact. Australia’s counter-rucking was superb, but it can be easily shut down if Welsh players support their runners and secure the ball. Pressure will be on Gareth Davies at scrum-half to knit play together, and if they can replicate the quick thinking that saw them score their only try at the weekend, they should have more bite to their game. However, if they sit back and invite the Pumas into the Welsh half, they could struggle to deal with this Argentinian team, and a sixth successive defeat could be in store.
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