2022 Scotland vs Argentina

Autumn Nations Series: Argentina Ready To Lay Down Gauntlet

Autumn Nations Series: Argentina Ready To Lay Down Gauntlet

On the back of an excellent 2022 Rugby Championship, there are high expectations for Argentina that will either be successful or succumb to disaster.

Nov 4, 2022 by Mariette Adams
Autumn Nations Series: Argentina Ready To Lay Down Gauntlet

Julian Montoya's leadership and set-piece prowess will be key when in-form Argentina goes searching for a historic three-peat against England, Wales and Scotland on its 2022 end-of-year tour of Europe.

On the back of an excellent 2022 Rugby Championship, there are high expectations for a team that will either be successful or succumb to disaster.

The reality is Argentina is in a prime position to topple England, Wales and Scotland on consecutive weekends, but they'd have to hit the ground running from the outset, like they did in a historic win over the All Blacks earlier this year.

However, two things can be true at the same time and when it comes to Argentina, the team's unpredictability can be its main strength and biggest weakness.

Since taking the head coach's role eight months ago, the enigmatic and colorful Michael Cheika has clearly mapped Argentina's road to the World Cup and pin-pointed the objectives he hopes the team achieves along the way. 

That road starts with the first game of this tour, against England, and will be the best indicator of how close or far Cheek's men are from where he wants them to be a year out from the World Cup.

Here's a look at what to expect from Argentina, as FloRugby previews the teams in this year's Autumn Nations Series. All matches are being streamed live on FloRugby.

Los Pumas In Their Golden Era

As mentioned above, unpredictability is one of the key features of Los Pumas' game. No matter how well-prepared and structured a team's defense is, the Argentinians find a way to catch their opponents off-guard, be it by muscling the ball through their forwards or by suddenly transitioning into a more free-flowing game plan. 

When executed right, it's the type of playing style that leaves rugby purists salivating.

In the past, that all out attacking streak has not always benefitted Argentina, which, despite all its flair and finesse on the field, just couldn't go all the way consistently to get the desired results at the end of games. 

Recently though, Los Pumas has added two key aspects to their game: maturity in their approach, depending on the match situation and a tactical kicking strategy to rival the best test teams currently in operation.

Instead of being a one-trick pony, Argentina now is a well-rounded test team capable of threatening the opposition's defense from various facets of the game and not just through dangerous running in broken field.

This year's Rugby Championship best illustrated Argentina's reshaping. 

The team employed a superior kicking game to win the territorial game against the All Blacks and showed great maturity and composure to kick six successful penalties, instead of opting for attacking lineouts en route to its first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand.

In that form, and in that mood, Argentina is an unstoppable force.

The Weight Of History

All that said, recent history has not been kind to Argentina with regard to its fixtures against the English, Welsh and Scottish.

The blue-ribbon fixture against England, Argentina has been on the losing side in the last 10 tests. They've beaten England just twice since the turn of the century, and four times overall, dating back to 1990.

As if that sorry record isn't inventive enough for Argentina to take down England, there's another enticing subplot in the offing: former Randwick teammates Eddie Jones versus Cheika.

Then there's Los Pumas' history against Wales. The Dragons will feel they have a score to settle after losing a two-test series between the sides 1-0 in Cardiff last year when Argentina held on for a 20-20 draw in the opening game, before a 18-point haul from Nicolas Sanchez inspired them to convincing 33-11 victory in the second match.

That two-game sequence brought an end to Wales' four-match winning streak in the fixture.

Recently, Argentina has turned the tables on Scotland, which had dominated the Argentinians between 2014 and 2018. Los Pumas claimed a riveting series win against Scotland.

It all points to three fascinating contests that could swing either way.

Captain Fantastic And His Main Lieutenants  

When Pablo Matera was relieved of his captaincy duties in May 2021, Julian Montoya stepped up to fill the void, and he has done a stellar job. 

It was always going to take a special individual to dethrone Agustin Creepy as Argentina's first-choice hooker, and Montoya proved to be that guy. 

Now that he occupies a leadership role within the team, Montoya's performance will be even more crucial during this tour.

Apart from the leadership qualities between them, Montoya and Matera, as well as Facundo Isa, give Argentina momentum through their strong ball carrying and offloading. And, this time around, it will be up to experienced utility back and designated goal-kicker Emiliano Boffelli to make that momentum count. 

Despite being utilized across the backline, Boffelli remains the primary playmaker for Argentina.

The veteran back has made 48 appearances at test level and was key in Argentina's impressive 2022 Rugby Championship campaign, contributing 20 points in the historic 25-18 win over the All Blacks and an 18-point haul in the 48-17 victory against the Wallabies. 

Those two feats helped Boffelli finish as the tournament's joint top point-scorer, along with Richie Mo'unga with 71 points. 

If the Argentina backs are going to thrive, they will need Boffelli to orchestrate the backline plays and the inter-play between backs and forwards.

Cheika's Balancing Act

Because test rugby is a result-driven trade, Cheika will want his team to succeed on this European excursion. However, he faces a fine balancing act between going all out for the desired results and using the tour to blood youngsters and test different combinations heading into to the all-important 2023 international season, which will culminate in the World Cup.

Cheika made a few bold selections, with Creevy, Facundo Bosch, Santiago Socino and Juan Imhoff all omitted from the traveling squad, while uncapped trio Franco Molina (lock), Eliseo Morales (scrumhalf) and Martin Bogado (fullback) all earned maiden call-ups to the traveling party.

Judging by these selections, Cheika appears to have a clear plan in mind with what he wants from his team at the moment. Only time will tell what that plan is and whether he got what he wants from the players he picked.