Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Argentina not to be taken lightly

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No other side in world rugby knows better than them how to stick to a gameplan than Argentina.  Photo / Ron Burgin
No other side in world rugby knows better than them how to stick to a gameplan than Argentina. Photo / Ron Burgin

There has been plenty of worrying about what might happen to Argentina when they enter the Rugby Championship next month. Will they have their best players? Will they be the whipping boys? Can they sell rugby to a predominantly football-crazy population?

Human nature is such that we tend to fret more about what might go wrong than dwelling on the potential positives. Which is strange really because the Pumas are so obviously going to be bringing some welcome qualities to the table.

No one should be stupid enough to think the Pumas, because of their relatively low world ranking - they are eighth - will struggle to have any impact. Argentina are more likely to beat the All Blacks before Scotland or Ireland ever manage it - and that's not just because the Pumas will have more opportunities.

Argentina can play rugby. They can't play pretty rugby but surely after scraping home 8-7 in the most important game of all last year, New Zealanders don't need reminding that test football is about substance not style.

The Pumas can scrum. They can really scrum. They can win their lineouts, take their kick-offs, clean out a million rucks and more, kick and chase with the best of them, scramble heroically on defence and land their goals.

They are the ultimate grinding team and no other side in world rugby knows better than them how to stick to a gameplan.

When it comes to all the important matters that are necessary for teams to do well in tests, Argentina are ahead of Australia. The Pumas will fancy they can beat the Wallabies in the last game of the championship in Rosario. Given that the Wallaby forwards would be nervous about scrummaging against a wet blanket, the Pumas have every reason to target that game. Australia have rugby gold in their backs: and tin in their forwards.

Watch the Pumas stare them down then beat them up - and grind their way to what might be their only win.

A solitary win and some competitive work in the other five games would be a fair return in their rookie season. But it might be more. That depends on how much influence Sir Graham Henry is able to wield in his consultancy capacity.

The Pumas can win the ball and keep the ball - Henry has been helping coach Santiago Phelan understand the importance of using the ball. The Pumas can compete if they can replicate the same intensity they offered at the World Cup - but to regularly beat the Wallabies, Springboks and All Blacks they need to be able to score more tries: develop better starter moves and take more risks.

If they can add that part to their offering it might be more than just the Wallabies who are embarrassed this year.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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