World Rugby

2023 Rugby World Cup: Wales Vs. Argentina Quarterfinal Preview

2023 Rugby World Cup: Wales Vs. Argentina Quarterfinal Preview

One of the surprise teams of the 2023 Rugby World Cup faces the final South American team remaining this weekend in the opener to the knockout rounds.

Oct 14, 2023 by Briar Napier
2023 Rugby World Cup: Wales Vs. Argentina Quarterfinal Preview

The pool stage at the 2023 Rugby World Cup is over, and after weeks of rugby in France, only eight nations remain standing in contention for this year's title.

By Monday, only four will remain — and the first of those semifinal qualifiers to be decided sees a South America vs. Europe matchup.

Wales and Argentina, from Pools C and D, respectively, will clash in Marseille with a spot in the semis on the line, but each squad is missing crucial pieces due to injury that could affect the result dramatically.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s quarterfinal opener between Argentina and Wales, which will meet for the 23rd time overall and third time at a World Cup:


For Wales to be considered the favorites to advance to the World Cup semifinals after the disastrous year it has had, maybe it’s time to build Warren Gatland a statue. 

That’s a joke (for now), but Wales thus far in France has been no laughing matter and a serious force that quickly has turned a corner in the few months since its dreadful Six Nations campaign, having won only one game, while allowing a Wales-record 19 tries in that competition. 

Wales smashed through Pool C with a perfect record (4-0), with three bonus points, clinching its spot in the knockout rounds with a game in hand after an eye-popping 40-6 drubbing of Australia, handing the two-time world champion Wallabies both their biggest defeat to Wales and at a World Cup. 

A heart-stopping victory in its opener against a resilient Fiji (also a quarterfinalist) was impressive, considering the Flying Fijians entered the World Cup off the back of a thrilling warm-up win against England at Twickenham.

Wales then had little issue in its other pool matches, getting past Portugal and Georgia — the latter result of which was especially important, considering that the Lelos shocked Wales in Cardiff last November in a game that essentially spelled the end for coach Wayne Pivac, who was later fired. 

The always-dangerous Dan Biggar is fit and back at fly-half for the quarterfinal, and that's one of six changes for Gatland against Los Pumas, though Wales will sorely miss world-class No. 8 Taulupe Faletau — Wales’ only true No. 8 — after he was ruled out for the rest of the World Cup after suffering a broken arm late in the win over Georgia. 

Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy is in as his replacement on the squad, while Aaron Wainwright gets the start at No. 8 for Saturday, putting more pressure on everyone else to perform and pick up the production that’s been left behind. 

Still, the energy no doubt should be there for Wales in Marseille, nonetheless, especially considering how well winger Louis Rees-Zammit (who scored a hat-trick against Georgia) and captain Jac Morgan, who had one of the performances of the tournament against Australia, are playing at the minute. 

Wales has been one of the World Cup’s biggest surprises to date, but with a third semifinal appearance in four tournaments on the line, it’ll be looking to keep the good mojo going and advance to play the winner of Ireland-New Zealand.


Argentina shouldn’t necessarily feel dissatisfied with reaching the quarterfinals, per se, especially considering that Los Pumas crashed out of the pool stage four years ago in Japan and missed out on the knockouts for the first time since 2003. 

But was Argentina perhaps hoping for a little more, especially considering how well it’s performed in numerous fixtures since appointing ex-Wallabies boss Michael Cheika as coach? Of course, it was, particularly in a winnable Pool D. 

Losing to a short-handed England in the opener put Los Pumas behind the 8-ball and needing to run the table to get to the knockouts, which, to Argentina’s credit, it did. 

It staved off a much-improved and impressive Samoa, then blew away debutant Chile, a fellow South American, squad, to set up a winner-take-all clash with giant-killer Japan in Nantes, with the victor advancing to the knockouts. 

But thanks to an electric hat trick from Newcastle Falcons winger Mateo Carreras and a great all-around performance (one try, one penalty and three conversions) from the underrated Edinburgh winger Emiliano Boffelli, Argentina passed the test against the Japanese by a 39-27 margin to earn second in the pool and a date with Wales. 

Like the Welsh, Los Pumas also will be without a crucial back-row player in Pablo Matera, who tore his hamstring against Japan. Lucas Paulos has been brought in for reinforcement, and Juan Martin Gonzalez shifts over from No. 8 to backside flanker against Wales, with Toulon’s Facundo Isa moving into the No. 8 role in Gonzalez’s place. 

The other change in the Pumas’ XV is Tomas Cubelli replacing Gonzalo Bertanou at scrum-half, but that’s it, and a grizzled Argentina side that has nine players who helped it take down Ireland on the same quarterfinal stage in the 2015 World Cup are back to try and do it again against another Six Nations squad eight years later. 

The battle between Wales and Argentina’s spry, speedy and energetic wingers in Rees-Zammit (aged 22) and Carreras (23) should be especially enticing in the meantime, as well.

Experience and continuity have served Argentina well thus far, and the pride of South American rugby has another major opportunity ahead of it to use those attributes to their benefit — and another deep knockout-round run.


Which squad will miss its back-row rock more? That could be the defining question when Argentina and Wales kick off the knockout stage, as Matera and Faletau, respectively, each were major cogs in their teams' engines throughout the pool stage. 

Neither side is necessarily at an “advantage” in that regard, but Argentina did manage to get the job done against Japan after losing Matera 24 minutes into the match, scrambling and finding a format that worked for the last nearly three quarters of the game (Wales, meanwhile, lost Faletau in the 69th minute when it had the match against Georgia wrapped up). 

Los Pumas’ veteran leadership and experience pulling through in a World Cup knockout match also could play a key role in the result, especially if it takes Wales some time to break through. 

But Wales has looked terrific for much of the tournament as its young guns have broken out into being stars, and with the firepower that it’s bringing to the Stade Velodrome, the favorites should be able to control the match and get back to the semifinals for the second straight World Cup. Wales 36, Argentina 22.