HOW THEY GOT HERE
After easily accounting for Fiji (28-13) and Uruguay (65-3), Australia’s ($1.38) World Cup tilt really gathered steam when it sent England packing 33-13, ending the tournament host’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals. A stunning defensive display saw them hold out Wales 15-6 despite copping two yellow cards early in the second half, before a controversial refereeing decision against Scotland in the quarter-final saw Bernard Foley slot a penalty kick in the 80th minute to snatch a one-point victory.
Argentina ($3.05) announced itself as a genuine World Cup threat when it led the All Blacks well into the second half of their opening pool game before succumbing 16-26, but it had little trouble seeing off Georgia, Tonga and Namibia, amassing more points than New Zealand along the way. A second-half surge saw Los Pumas comfortably account for Ireland 43-20 to seal just their second World Cup semi-final berth.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Wallabies have won 18 of their 24 clashes with Argentina, most recently a 34-9 thumping in July as part of this year’s Rugby Championship. But the Argentinians had the better of us in October last year, saluting 21-17 to end a nine-match Australian winning streak.
The Aussies are looking increasingly unlikely to be without fullback Israel Folau (ankle) and number eight David Pocock, with Folau leaving the park just 10 minutes into the Wallabies’ training session on Thursday, while Pocock hasn’t pulled on his boots for 10 days since injuring his calf muscle against Scotland. Prop Scott Sio’s situation is even more dire, with his right elbow still barely able to be moved after bruising it in a collapsed scrum during the Wallabies’ win against Scotland. For Argentina, Mariano Galarza has missed almost the entire tournament after being found guilty of eye gouging New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick in their opening pool game. The lock was suspended for nine weeks over the incident, though it clearly hasn’t put much of a dent in his team’s campaign. Captain and hooker Agustin Creevy is also under a cloud with a leg injury he suffered in the quarter-finals, but he’s expected to suit up on Monday morning (AEDT).
THE X FACTOR
In a game that is every chance of being a tight affair, the result could be determined by the performances of the opposing No.10s. Bernard Foley kicked the winning points that took Australia past Scotland at the death, but had he not converted in the 80th minute, his three misses in the first half would have haunted him forever. Argentina’s main man Nicolas Sanchez, however, was exquisite with the boot against Ireland, slotting nine of his 10 attempts to snuff out any chance of an Irish comeback.
THE CRYSTAL BALL
They’ve reached the World Cup semi-finals for just the second time in history and vaulted into fourth place in the world rankings along the way, so the question remains: has Argentina played all its cards already? If Australia brings the brand of rugby that saw it summarily dismiss England earlier in the tournament, they’ll win this one comfortably, particularly if the occasion becomes too much for their opposition. Despite their one-point thriller in the quarters, the Wallabies couldn’t be better placed after winning their last six games since the All Blacks gave them an almighty touch-up in August, and are deserved favourites to book their place in the final.