Rugby: Wallabies prepare for 'cauldron' in Rosario

Robbie Deans' Wallabies must conquer a fierce "bullfighting ring'' and a wounded Argentinian team willing to resort to dirty tactics. Photo / Getty Images.
Robbie Deans' Wallabies must conquer a fierce "bullfighting ring'' and a wounded Argentinian team willing to resort to dirty tactics. Photo / Getty Images.

Nathan Sharpe's Wallabies must conquer a fierce "bullfighting ring'' and a wounded Argentinian team willing to resort to dirty tactics. A goring could bring down coach Robbie Deans.

That warning was direct and emotional from legendary Wallaby and Pumas prop Enrique "Topo'' Rodriguez when he described the cauldron in Rosario where a Wallaby team full of question marks goes under the blowtorch this morning.

The scrum pillar who played tests for both countries in the 1980s was honoured to make yesterday's jersey presentation to the hard-heads and novices of a focused Australian team - but pulled no punches when later analysing their challenge.

"If you go to a bullfighting ring with two wounded bulls, it's going to be a hell of a fight,'' said Rodriguez, part of upset wins over the Wallabies in 1979 and 1983 before switching allegiance for a proud 26-test career in gold. "I just told them Argentina is a country full of heroes. Go through history from Juan Manuel Fangio, Guillermo Vilas, Carlos Monzon who destroyed Tony Mundine in boxing, Maradona and Messi to the team world championships in volleyball, basketball, football and women's hockey.''

"The Pumas will play hard to win, dirty if they have to.'' It was a timely emphasis on Argentina's proud conquests.

The underdog Wallabies cannot become the fodder who turn this Pumas side into new heroes because Rodriguez sees this test on the same 50-50 knife's edge as that of the 1997 tour.

When discipline was called for from Rod Macqueen's 1997 side, they bungled a test, losing 18-16 in Buenos Aires with missed tackles, botched re- starts and sloppiness.

"When the All Blacks lose, it is because the opposition play very well. When Australia loses, it is because they have played very bad so, yes, the Wallabies can win but it all starts in the brain ... they must play switched on and have discipline,'' Rodriguez, now 60, said.

He still has his sense of humour. When the Wallabies were starting to thank him, he said: "Hang on ... I've got to go and present the jumpers to the Pumas as well.''

"I'm pulled a little more to Australia's side with the jersey thing because it was fantastic but I'd like to see the Pumas win as well. It would mean a hell of a lot to them if they did. For the Wallabies to lose, it could mean a major disaster and change in the personnel.''

Giant flanker Sitaleki Timani smashing go-forward metres as a midfield ball-runner is a big part of the Wallabies' plan as long as follow-up forwards swiftly clean out and provide the quick ball so absent against South Africa a week ago.

New outside centre Ben Tapuai will gain strength and composure from having close friend Digby Ioane on the wing outside him. There are some nice shades to his game but being smart on defence will be a big one when the Pumas come running.

Meanwhile, Wallaby first five-eighths Kurtley Beale wants to build a future in the 10 jersey for Australia - an interesting choice if/when Quade Cooper and James O'Connor crave the same position. Beale will pilot the Wallabies this morning and shapes as the tourists' biggest weapon at five-eighth in an injury-depleted backline.

Beale was a shining light in last week's 31-8 loss to South Africa in his first international start at No.10 _ breaking the line, passing sharply and producing a string of touch-finders with the boot. It was a major return of confidence following a horror start to the Rugby Championship. Lacking the zip and fitness which made him a game-breaking fullback last year, a rusty Beale was dropped twice from No.15 in the first half of the tournament.

But he's now excited about building a future at five-eighth, especially following on from his eye-catching Super Rugby displays mid-year for the Melbourne Rebels before injuries
hit.

"At the end of the day, I'll do what's best for the team, I've always wanted to be that player who can fill [any] void,'' Bealesaid. "Early in the year with the Rebels I enjoyed my rugby at 10 and last week was a little bit of a taste there that I want more of.''

O'Connor is due to return from his torn hamstring against the All Blacks on October 20 but Beale would virtually guarantee himself the coveted No.10 jersey again by rallying a young backline for a memorable win over the Pumas in Rosario.

- Sunday Mail, AAP

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