Former captain George Gregan has warned the Wallabies to beware of the Graham Henry factor when they play Argentina for a place in the Rugby World Cup final.
Four years after Henry masterminded Australia’s demise at the last World Cup in New Zealand, Gregan says the former All Blacks mentor’s influence will be a big factor in the semi-final at Twickenham on Sunday.
After leading New Zealand to the World Cup title, Henry spent two years in Argentina as a coaching advisor to the Pumas following their 2012 introduction to the Rugby Championship.
Gregan says he’s left an indelible mark on the Pumas, whose vibrant, expansive style under the direction of classy midfield playmakers Nicolas Sanchez and Juan Martin Hernandez has yielded 26 tries in five games at the tournament – second only to the All Blacks’ 34.
Argentina ran in four tries in their 43-20 quarter-final rout of Six Nations champions Ireland and Gregan says the Pumas’ transformation into an attacking force is no coincidence.
“They made the right decisions on the weekend and there is that New Zealand influence, so to speak, through Graham Henry,” Australia’s most-capped player told Rugby World Cup Weekly on Fox Sports.
“But what has been pleasing too is that they still back what is Argentinian – their set piece and their collision – the contact areas, they pride themselves there.
“It just adds to their game and they’re going to be a handful to beat.”
Former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson believes Henry’s stint helped turn the Pumas into such a formidable threat that they should start favourites against the Wallabies.
“Graham Henry after the last World Cup spent a couple of years over there in Argentina, as did one of their advisors, trying to give them an understanding, I suppose, about how the All Blacks try to play the game and improve their skill set,” Wilson said.
“And Ireland gave them space and they were good enough to hold their line, to draw and pass and then to finish.
“I love the way their (five eighth) plays – Sanchez has become a very good player throughout the course of this tournament.”
While Gregan is tipping a “more clinical” Wallabies to rebound from their lacklustre quarter-final win over Scotland and deny Argentina a first final berth, he agrees Sanchez and Hernandez give the Pumas a dangerous edge with their ability to release exciting back three Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero and Juan Imhoff.
“Just their understanding of how to play, just move the ball into space, definitely the Rugby Championship has helped them because to succeed in the Rugby Championship, you have to be able to score points,” Gregan said.
“You have to be able to use the ball and back yourself. In the past, they didn’t use the ball as much as they would have liked probably out of their own half.
“And they know how to play on the big stage, which is great.”