Pumas genuine RWC15 contenders: Wallabies

No longer a Rugby World Cup lightweight, Argentina have been labelled legitimate contenders by a Wallabies outfit that has seen the change take place before their eyes over the past four years.

As they often are, the Wallabies will be firm favourites when the two countries clash on Sunday (Monday AEDT) in a World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.

But with a dynamic backline that features speedy winger Juan Imhoff and fullback Joaquin Tuculet, Argentina have broken the mould which had them pegged as a nation of scrummagers.

That stereotype was put to bed during their exhilarating 43-20 quarter-final thrashing of Ireland – if it hadn’t been already.

With the wily heads of Nicholas Sanchez and Martin Landajo occupying the halves, Drew Mitchell said there were genuine threats across the park from Los Pumas.

It’s not something which you could have said of previous Argentine sides who, despite boasting champion halfback Agustin Pichot for three World Cup campaigns, rarely had enough backline brilliance to trouble opponents.

“They’re a quality side and they have real strike weapons,” Mitchell said.

“Not only just strike men but they have creativity in their halves and things at 10 and 12.

“We know them well from the Rugby Championship but, at the same time, we will have to go away and work hard this week and analyse what they do and make sure we are prepared and ready to go.”

Argentina have shown great improvements since entering the Rugby Championship in 2012 and, this season, produced their most impressive result to date – a 37-25 victory over the Springboks in Durban, their first on South African soil in nine attempts.

But the Wallabies haven’t been immune to the Argentine emergence, losing in Mendoza last year in a match which triggered the end of Ewen McKenzie’s tenure as coach, and Adam Ashley-Cooper knows how far they’ve come.

“43-20 is a huge win, particularly against a world-class team like Ireland,” he said.

“Ever since they entered the Rugby Championship, they’ve improved out of sight.

“They’re a World Cup contender. They proved that today with the result and they’ve proved that throughout this World Cup with their performances.”

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