Argentina set up a winner-takes-all clash with Japan for a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal spot after dominating Chile 59-5 in a rousing first South American derby this morning (NZT).
Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez enjoyed a perfect 100th test with 20 points and a try and became the Pumas’ all-time leading point-scorer in the tournament. His seven-for-seven goalkicking and leadership will also make coach Michael Cheika reconsider whether to continue with Santiago Carreras as their 10 against the Brave Blossoms.
“(Japan) are a great team. They are quarterfinalists from the last World Cup and we’re not, so we’re very hungry to be in that position,” Cheika said.
He wasn’t sure if Argentina has hit top form in time. “You can never measure it and it is never linear, you are never going to go up and up.”
Sanchez became the second Pumas centurion after Agustin Creevy, who also marked a personal milestone with a try as he tied Mario Ledesma as their most capped Rugby World Cup player in his 18th match.
Los Pumas scored eight converted tries: Flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez grabbed two, and the others went to Carreras, fullback Martin Bogado, winger Rodrigo Isgro, and replacement Ignacio Ruiz. Their fifth successive 50-plus points win against Chile earned Argentina’s second biggest Rugby World Cup win after beating Namibia 63-3 in 2007.
“The intensity was good,” Cheika said. “We handled the occasion well, we respected the opposition a lot, and some of the things we wanted to work on were there.”
But the biggest cheer came from the large contingent of Los Condores supporters, who were loud before kickoff and raised the roof seven minutes from the end when replacement hooker Tomas Dussaillant was bulldozed over the line in a rolling maul. Chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Chile! Chile!” rang around Stade de la Beaujoire.
“They showed what Chilean rugby is about,” Chile coach Pablo Lemoine said. “This Rugby World Cup has given us a lot and put Chilean rugby on a different path. We expected the World Cup to help Chilean rugby, and we did it.”
Sanchez got the first try, nine minutes in, breaking three tackles to get into the right corner.
“It was very special for me,” Sanchez said. “My family are here, 100 caps. I am very happy.”
Gonzalez followed with his first try from a lineout maul. Another rolling maul sent Creevy over and they were 24-0 after 24 minutes.
Isgro’s yellow card in the 26th for a high tackle on flyhalf Rodrigo Fernandez slowed down the Argentines, who became wasteful in the face of Chile’s diehard defense.
Chile started the second half with a surging run by center Matias Garafulic but Argentina claimed the bonus-point fourth try minutes later when Bogado weaved past three defenders to touch down.
Chile’s red-shirted hordes erupted in the 51st when hooker Augusto Bohme scored from a lineout trick. But video showed a forward pass, and referee Paul Williams was obviously reluctant to rule it out, which he did.
Isgro, the Olympic sevens bronze medallist, made up for his yellow card with his try, Gonzalez received an overlap to score his second try, Ruiz’s smart pick-and-go made it seven tries, and a breakaway from Carreras completed a solid performance from the Pumas.
Carreras converted the last two tries with Sanchez off and Argentina extended its overall winning record against its neighbor to 37-0.
Los Condores brushed it off as they waved to their legions of fans. They also lost to Japan, Samoa and England but conquered the Rugby World Cup as far as they were concerned.
“There are so many people who don’t come from the rugby culture that are starting to follow us and feel inspired by us. They want to support us and keep on pushing us,” captain Martin Sigren said. “It is hard to put into words what it means to represent this group of players, coming from so far down. We have fought really hard to get here.”
Fullback Martin Bogado and right winger Rodrigo Isgro will make their Rugby World Cup debuts in Argentina’s reshuffled side for its all-South American contest against Chile on Sunday.
Coach Michael Cheika made 11 changes to his starting XV from the 19-10 win against Samoa last Friday. Flankers Marcos Kremer and Juan Martin Gonzalez — who switches from No. 8 — lock Guido Petti and prop Eduardo Bello retained their spots.
“Isgro had an incredible transition,” Cheika said on Thursday. “Just three months ago he was playing sevens. He is now playing in a World Cup on merit.”
Isgro, who played sevens at the last Olympic Games in Tokyo, will try to keep his emotions under control.
“I remember when I was little, jumping on the couch when Los Pumas were playing. Today being here, playing in a World Cup match makes me very happy,” he said. “As far as anxiety goes, obviously I want to get on the pitch on Saturday. ... But I feel like I’m controlling and managing it quite well.”
Keeping busy could help that.
“The first people I told were my family. They are on a plane on their way here so I’m going to have them at the ground,” he said. “My lifelong friends and my Pumas Sevens teammates send me messages every day to see how I am, to see if it was my turn to play this weekend. I shared it with all of them.”
Agustin Creevy, Nicolas Sanchez and Tomas Cubelli were also selected in a team loaded with veterans.
The 38-year-old Creevy will equal Mario Ledesma with his 18th World Cup appearance for Argentina at hooker, while the flyhalf Sanchez earns his 100th test cap and has a chance to break his team’s scoring record at the tournament.
“The selection of Nico Sanchez for his 100th cap is very important for him,” Cheika said.
Sanchez is already Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with 872 points and needs 16 more to overtake Gonzalo Quesada as Argentina’s leading all-time scorer at the Rugby World Cup. He will be partnered in the halves by Tomas Cubelli at Stade de la Beaujoire, which is home to French soccer club Nantes.
“This team, with changes especially in the backs, has the merit to play,” Cheika said. “They have the opportunity to play this week, show their ability.”
Juan Imhoff, who has played the past 12 years for French Top 14 club Racing 92, offers a major try-scoring threat from the left wing while center Jeronimo de la Fuente takes over as captain from hooker Julian Montoya and earns his 77th cap.
“He has been training the best I have seen him since we’ve been together. It was only fitting that he had the opportunity,” Cheika said. “It was not planned that it would be in this match, because you have to consider injuries, but for me he is ready to play in a very important match for us.”
Argentina was stifled against England in its opening game 27-10, but was still in contention to reach the quarterfinals with a final Pool D game against Japan to come next Sunday in Nantes. Japan faced Samoa later Thursday in Toulouse.
“As we said after the first game, every week is a final. Our mental approach to this match is very good,” Cheika said. “Now it depends on how they cross the white line on Saturday, the moment when everything we talk about in these press conferences must be demonstrated.”
Chile is looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat in its debut Rugby World Cup. De la Fuente expects them to be fired up.
“Chile are very clear about how they want to play. They are very frontal, they like to play one on one with space,” he said. “Facing a team that knows exactly what it wants to do makes it dangerous.”
Chile coach Pablo Lemoine made eight changes from the England loss.
Javier Carrasco returns at loosehead prop alongside hooker Augusto Bohme and tighthead prop Matias Dittus, who kept their places.
No. 8 Raimundo Martinez and flanker Clemente Saavedra, a lineout specialist, join captain Martin Sigren in the back row.
Argentina will keep an eye on fullback Inaki Ayarza, who has beaten a team-high 11 defenders from 22 carries.
Played 39 times: Argentina won 39.
Argentina $1.001 Chile $41
How to watch
Sky Sport 1 from 1.45am Sunday
Argentina: Martin Bogado, Rodrigo Isgro, Lucio Cinti, Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Pedro Rubiolo, Guido Petti, Eduardo Bello, Agustin Creevy, Joel Sclavi. Reserves: Ignacio Ruiz, Mayco Vivas, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Matias Alemanno, Joaquin Oviedo, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Santiago Carreras, Juan Cruz Mallia.
Chile: Inaki Ayarza, Santiago Videla, Domingo Saavedra, Matias Garafulic, José Ignacio Larenas, Rodrigo Fernandez, Marcelo Torrealba; Raimundo Martinez, Clemente Saavedra, Martin Sigren (captain), Javier Eissmann, Santiago Pedrero, Matias Dittus, Augusto Bohme, Javier Carrasco. Reserves: Tomas Dussaillant, Salvador Lues, Esteban Inostroza, Augusto Sarmiento, Alfonso Escobar, Ignacio Silva, Nicolas Herreros, Francisco Urroz.
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