Woeful Wallabies desperate for win over Argentina
PERTH, Australia (AP) — The Wallabies have lost five of their last six tests, are trying to avoid five consecutive defeats for the first time since 2005 and have a new coach who still hasn’t posted an international victory.
Little wonder they’ve been dubbed the ‘woeful Wallabies’ by some Australians who are worried that the national team could slump to a rare home loss to Argentina on the weekend.
Despite all the doom and gloom, Australia still goes into Saturday’s Rugby Championship test against Argentina with a chance to improve on its disappointing season which started with a 2-1 series defeat to the British and Irish Lions.
The Pumas haven’t beaten Australia since an 18-16 home win in 1997, and it has been 30 years since their only win over the Wallabies in Australia.
But Ewen McKenzie, the coach with no wins in three test matches in charge, is taking nothing for granted when the teams — which have each lost their first three matches in the championship — meet at the former Subiaco Oval.
Wallabies winger James O’Connor says he believes Australia is doing a lot of things well and it’s a matter of time before the attack clicks.
“It is frustrating because I can see we are not far off and the scoreboard has blown out,” O’Connor said. As for the defense: “We are making a lot more tackles than people expect but when teams are making breaks we are not covering well.”
O’Connor was heavily criticized by Wallaby great Michael Lynagh after Australia lost 38-12 to South Africa last week in Brisbane, its first loss to the Springboks in the Queensland state capital since 1971.
The mild mannered Lynagh said O’Connor, seen smiling with Springbok players on the field after the match, should have been more subdued after such a stinging loss.
Lynagh’s former teammate Nick Farr-Jones, who led Australia to its World Cup triumph in 1991, says the Wallabies should be put on incentive contracts or take a 50 percent pay cut if they deliver another poor performance.
“Last Saturday was an absolute debacle,” Farr-Jones said in Fairfax Media on Friday, before comparing Australia’s rugby situation with the defeat in the recent Ashes cricket series in England. “It’s a bit like our cricket team. We can play well for two-thirds of the game but in the one-third we play badly, it leaves us in a huge hole. For rugby to make money and be profitable right across the game you need the Wallabies to play well.”
Stung by yet another defeat, McKenzie took a big gamble by dropping veteran scrumhalf Will Genia to the bench and elevating six-test back rower Ben Mowen to the Wallabies captaincy. Genia, who stood in as captain for injured lock James Horwill in last week’s loss to South Africa, lost his spot to Nic White, who has made two test appearances as a replacement.
A world-renowned halfback general, Genia appeared to pay the price for a poor performance from the forward pack and a disjointed backline.
“We are at the pointy end of Australian rugby and we want a competitive environment,” McKenzie said. “Will’s an outstanding player. He’d admit he hasn’t been at the peak of his game of late. But he’ll respond as he already has in training. He’s out there pushing himself hard, and he’ll continue to do that.”
Farr-Jones, a former scrumhalf, agreed with Genia’s demotion to the bench.
“It’s going to be a wake-up call,” Farr-Jones said. “It’s about getting your confidence back and getting your judgment back. Will (Genia) will get his A-game back.”
Argentina has a reworked backline with scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli making his first start of the tournament in place of Martin Landajo. Felipe Contepomi and Gonzalo Tiesi have been promoted to starting roles in the midfield and winger Juan Imhoff replaces the injured Gonzalo Camacho.
Australia: James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen (captain), Nic White, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Christian Leali’ifano, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor, Israel Folau. Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Will Genia, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani.
Argentina: Juan Martin Hernandez, Horacio Agulla, Gonzalo Tiesi, Felipe Contepomi, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Julio Farias Cabello, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ayerza. Reserves: Eusebio Guinazu, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarza, Benjamin Macome, Martin Landajo, Santiago Fernandez, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.