ROSARIO: Wherever they have gone in Argentina this week, there has been no reprieve for the Wallabies. The locals keep reminding them the whole of Argentina is looking at this weekend’s Test as when the Pumas will celebrate their first Rugby Championship triumph.
Turn on the televisions in their hotel rooms and, within minutes, a commercial promoting the Rosario Test will appear to strike fear in any visiting team.
In an elaborate production, it shows the Argentina Test team – surrounded by hundreds of past Pumas – joining arms to become one, and then charging towards the screen with the aim of obliterating anything feeble in their way.
The Wallabies know exactly how that feels. As they attempt to finish their muddled campaign on a high at the Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, there is a feeling of ”backs to the wall” among the tourists.
With so many injuries, the Wallabies head into this Test very much a Band-Aid operation, relying on numerous key players with niggles to show pride in their national colours and ignore the pain to somehow keep the Pumas at bay.
Beating the Pumas at home is an onerous task, as both the 1987 and 1997 touring Wallabies can testify. In front of the most vocal and distracting of home crowds, the Pumas always lift – relying on their forward prowess and an ability to strangle possession at the breakdown to destabilise any team that fails to match their muscle.
The All Blacks succeeded last week in La Plata, producing one of their best efforts of the season, but they are at the peak of their powers and close to full strength.
The Wallabies aren’t. They are well short of their best line-up – the back line has a disjointed, cobbled-together look – while some of their forwards are still recovering from being bashed by the Springboks in Pretoria, and then the day-long trip to the middle of Argentina.
That’s why the message all week in the Wallabies camp has been that this is the Test in which the team can show their true character. It revolves around green and gold pride, and the belief the Wallabies often produce their best when everything is against them.
You do feel some sympathy for the Wallabies, as their injury toll this season has been horrendous. So far this season, they have selected 38 players for 10 internationals. That includes five fullbacks, seven wingers and six different centre combinations. There has also been six back-row and five front-row combinations. Some of the changes have been due to form – as the Wallabies have had some miserable moments – but the bulk is due to mangled bodies.
Some of the blame has to be directed towards the game’s administrators, including those at the ARU and SANZAR who have contributed to making the season’s itinerary so cluttered and overloaded with high-intensity fixtures.
The mantra now is ”too much rugby is never enough”. There is an obvious downside to that.
Not surprisingly, the debate over player welfare has intensified after Australia’s leading performers found themselves subjected to endless months of high-intensity football, with virtually no reprieve. While the Super Rugby competition has been dramatically extended, and the demands on each Australian province deepened due to the pressure to remain financially buoyant, every gap in the season is taken up with Test matches. So from February to December, there is hardly time for a player to rest. Instead they must develop into marathon men.
The end result has been a spate of injuries in Wallabyland. There is only so much a flogged body and mind can take.
The Wallabies also know the finish line is still a long way off. They are only at the 30-kilometre mark. After Argentina, the Wallabies play another five Tests this season, and in quick succession. From Rosario they go to Brisbane for the third Bledisloe Cup encounter, and then off to Europe for Tests in Paris, London, Florence and Cardiff.
Only on December 2 will they get a breather. The immediate effect is that due to the high attrition rate, the Wallabies will confront the Pumas with one of the strangest looking Australian attacks in some time. The only members familiar with each other are the halves – Nick Phipps and Kurtley Beale – and the rest have little or no history with each other. There are obvious flaws, and the Pumas are bound to target the newcomers, in particular the effervescent but unpredictable winger Nick Cummins in his first Test. Cummins’s effectiveness under the high ball is bound to be tested, and the Pumas will want to quickly discover whether he is up to international standard.
No wonder the locals are excited and the Pumas raging favourites to achieve their first Rugby Championship win.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.