They’ve always been the fourth team in the southern hemisphere behind the World Cup winning trio of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, but Argentina – boosted by a significant number of players playing in Europe – are primed to embark on a 12-month period that could shock the rugby establishment.
When Los Pumas reached the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup it provoked widespread surprised. But now, fresh off a Rugby Championship which saw them win their first ever match in New Zealand against the All Blacks and a summer tour victory against Scotland, they have emerged as ones to watch this autumn.
And if they were to take a major scalp this month, who would it be? Well, England of course.
‘Argentina must have good wingers’
Coached by Australian Michael Cheika, who is dividing his time between leading Lebanon in the current Rugby League World Cup, Argentina have improved markedly to become a real threat to England in Pool D of next year’s 15-man version of the global tournament.
“All I can say is Argentina must have some good wingers if Mateo Carreras hasn’t been playing for them,” Newcastle Falcons head coach Dave Walder said. “But we have regular and open communication with Michael Cheika, who has been great to deal with.
“Mateo has been holding tackle bags on a few different continents over the past year or so, but hopefully his performances for us during the early part of this season will see him getting back out onto the field for Argentina over the month ahead.
“The two Matiases [Orlando and Moroni] in the centres are classy operators, as everyone knows, and they will bring a lot to every team they’re in.”
Of the 33-man squad Cheika named ahead of Sunday’s clash with England, 25 play in the European leagues if you include Rodrigo Martinez and Santiago Medrano – who were part of now expelled Premiership sides Wasps and Worcester respectively.
Having only two players – Tomas Cubelli and captain Pablo Matera – playing in their native Super Rugby, Argentina have managed to create a squad suited to most playing styles in the world game.
Where we increasingly see New Zealand struggle with physical rugby, Argentinian players have grown into that style by playing in France. And where we have seen Australia run aground in wet weather, the Argentinians have become ever more adaptive.
So at Twickenham on Sunday – and at the World Cup in a year’s time – Argentina will have the tools to shock England, who they have not beaten at HQ since 2006.
The Pumas have always been a presence on the rugby map, once with domestic teams in Super Rugby finals, but it seems as if the migration of players en masse to the physical and competitive teams of Europe – in the Premiership, Top14 and United Rugby Championship – has had a beneficial effect on the international side.
An England side without a game since July are for the taking, and Argentina will have the belief that they can down Eddie Jones’s men on Sunday.