Wallabies to face new-look Pumas

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was expecting an ambush but instead may have got a welcome mat from Argentina who have named a new-look backline for Saturday’s Test in Mendoza.

Cheika believed the Pumas had ear-marked Australia as easier Rugby Championship prey.

He thought they would include stars such as veteran playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez, who sat out the Pumas’ 39-18 away loss to the All Black last weekend, as they gun for successive wins over the Wallabies following a 21-17 victory at the same venue last year.

“You’d have to think they would be targeting this one because they left a couple of players out of the first game and that’s their prerogative,” Cheika said.

But Argentina coach David Hourcade showed the World Cup was his real priority by making a seven personnel changes as he weighs his options.

Five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez and fullback Santiago Cordero are the only survivors in a starting backline that features a raw new centre combination.

Inside centre Juan Pablo Socino will make his Test debut alongside Matias Moroni, who has just two caps, while winger Gonzalo Camacho was recalled for his first international since 2013.

Cheika wasn’t around last year when the side was fractured by the off-field troubles involving Kurtley Beale which ultimately led to the resignations of coach Ewen McKenzie and team business manager Di Patston.

That issue blew up when the team was in Mendoza and undoubtedly contributed to their first loss to Argentina in since 1997.

With plenty of other new faces in the squad, the Wallabies feel that chapter is closed and a victory would keep it that way.

Cheika liked plenty about their last-gasp win over South Africa in Brisbane last weekend.

But it also gave them plenty to work on to prevent the Pumas going back-to-back.

As well as making three changes to the pack, Cheika said set piece had been a big focus at training, particularly as they were lining up against a side who prided themselves on their forward play.

Argentina’s two tries against New Zealand came from brilliantly executed driving mauls following lineouts and Australia expect the Pumas to use that tactic and the scrum to attack.

They also need to improve their breakdown after 18 turnovers against the Springboks.

“Set piece is the area where we really want to improve,” Cheika said.

“The breakdown last week was definitely an issue that we needed to sort out with our timing and technique and we’ve trained hard on that.”

Ben McCalman, who is returning from a fractured cheekbone, is the new No.8 with Cheika liking his “tough and hard” style.

McCalman, who missed last year’s Mendoza match through injury, said he was excited to be back and playing alongside recalled starting openside flanker David Pocock, with the pair sharing a history at the Western Force.

“David Pocock showed last week and throughout the Super season he’s back to his best form,” McCalman said.

“I played a lot of my rugby with him over in Perth so he’s player I’m very familiar with and certainly enjoy playing with as well.

“And also with Scott Fardy as well; us three working together can certainly add some value to the team.”

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