SYDNEY (AP) — Argentina coach Mario Ledesma wasn't about to tinker with a starting lineup that gave the Pumas their historic first win over New Zealand in 30 rugby test matches.
Ledesma made no changes to his starters on Thursday for the team's match Saturday against the Wallabies at Newcastle north of Sydney. That's exactly a week after the Pumas upset the highly-fancied All Blacks 25-15 in a Tri-Nations match in Sydney while playing their first test in a year.
Earlier, Australia made three changes to its starting side from the one that beat New Zealand 24-22 two weeks ago in Brisbane.
Veteran prop Scott Sio comes in for the injured James Slipper at loosehead prop, alongside hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Taniela Tupou. Rob Simmons is set to play his 105th test for the Wallabies at McDonald Jones Stadium at Newcastle north of Sydney, partnered with Matt Philip in the second row.
Ned Hanigan will start at blindside flanker in the third and final change to the starting team, joined in the back row by skipper Michael Hooper and No. 8 Harry Wilson.
Ledesma kept his starting XV, including flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, who was responsible for all of Argentina's points.
In changes to the reserves, Santiago Socino replaced Facundo Bosch as back-up to hooker Julian Montoya while Facundo Isa was named as back-row cover instead of Tomas Lezana. Emiliano Boffelli replaced rookie back Lucio Cinti on the bench.
A victory for either side on Saturday will move them above the All Blacks to the top of the Tri-Nations standings, with Argentina last beating the Wallabies in 2018 on the Gold Coast south of Brisbane.
Ledesma said his side needed to control the tempo of the match.
“I think it’s a very balanced team,” Ledesma said of Australia. “It’s been a couple of years already where they’ve had an improving set-piece — lineout, driving maul, scrum. We’ve got to be spot on with our game plan and our kicking game and control the tempo."
Ledesma is being assisted by former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Cheika, who said in May he could never coach against Australia, took a consultancy role with the Pumas in September and was credited by several Argentina players with giving them the belief and confidence that they could beat the All Blacks.
“Having Cheika in a team, he’s got that sort of motivating aspect about him and he obviously knows Australian rugby really well,” Hanigan said earlier this week. “So he’ll definitely be an asset to them."
For the Wallabies, Nic White will partner with Reece Hodge, who returns at flyhalf after leading the Wallabies to their win over New Zealand. Regular No. 10 James O'Çonnor is sidelined with a foot injury.
“After being left out in our last test we got the reaction we expected from Scott (Sio), his preparation this week has been excellent and his experience will be invaluable against Argentina,“ Australia coach Dave Rennie said Thursday.
“The tournament is evenly poised and our fate is in our own hands," Rennie said. “We saw how much passion Argentina play with in their performance last weekend and we’re excited by the challenge in Newcastle.”
Australia: Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (captain), Harry Wilson, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Tom Banks. Reservees: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Filipo Daugunu.
Argentina: Santiago Carreras, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Santiago Chocobares, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli, Rodrigo Bruni, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera (captain), Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya, Nahuel Tetaz Chapparo. Reserves: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Grondona, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero.
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