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Projected Starters Series: Argentina

Projected Starters Series: Argentina

Argentina

With an historic win in New Zealand under their belts, Argentina head into this year’s Autumn Nation Series with high hopes of continuing to show they mean business.

Los Pumas face England at Twickenham before facing Wales and Scotland across a busy few weeks in November for Michael Cheika’s side.

This year’s Rugby Championship has displayed the wealth of options at Cheika’s disposal in a month’s time, with a 48-17 win against Australia backed up by the famous win against the All Blacks in Christchurch.

And with just a year to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Los Pumas will be looking to perfect their formula as they bid to better their best-ever finish of third in 2007. Here’s how they might line up this autumn.

Front Row

Argentina’s front row has been an area of strength over the past few years, proving a tough match for anyone in world rugby at the scrum and the breakdown.

Thomas Gallo is only 10 caps into his international career but has already proved his ability as an international level loosehead, and adds a scoring threat with four tries already, while Joel Sclavi looks best placed to claim the tighthead shirt despite only making his international bow this year.

At hooker, captain Julian Montoya looks to have the nod ahead of Agustin Creevy, but both provide excellent options alongside a wealth of experience that is lacking either side of them, with 78 and 94 caps respectively, with Montoya’s breakdown work among the very best in the game.

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Gallo

Cheika has plenty of other options, with Eduardo Bello, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro alternatives to Gallo and Sclavi should the Australian look to alter the balance of his front three.

Tetaz Chaparro is the experienced head amongst Cheika’s cohort of props, while Bello has just made a move to England with Saracens.

Second Row

Los Pumas look to be fairly settled in the second row, with Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini a consistent pairing at four and five.

Argentina

The experienced pair have been a fixture of the Argentine scrum, with 73 and 69 caps each to their name respectively and will look to keep their chemistry ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

They are even more likely to start together now, following the news that Bordeaux-Bègles forward Guido Petti will miss the autumn after suffering a knee injury.

Back Row

As with much of this Argentina side, the back row has become quite settled under Cheika’s stewardship.

Juan Martin Gonzalez looks to have the number six shirt sewn up at blindside flanker, with the 21-year-old quickly looking at home in white and blue.

The London Irish forward has impressed both with his breakdown work as well as his scoring ability, finishing the 2022 Rugby Championship with four tries, including finishing off a stunning end to end team effort against South Africa.

He has formed a terrific trio with Marcos Kremer at openside flanker and Pablo Matera at No.8 that looks almost impenetrable in terms of those looking for a starting berth.

Matera continues to look a fearsome opponent as he ticks towards over 80 caps for Los Pumas, while Kremer, also able to operate as a lock, has completed the trio with aplomb.

That won’t stop those waiting in the wings from looking to wrestle those shirts of their current holders, however, particularly Toulon No.8 Facundo Isa, arguably the most powerful carrier in the Argentina squad.

Joaquin Oviedo and Santiago Grondona are both at a fledgling stage in their career and will look for more opportunities on the international stage, while Rodrigo Bruni will be an able deputy when required.

Following Petti’s injury, there is a chance that Kremer may be used a little more in the second row, opening up an opportunity for others in the back row.

Half-Backs

A strong and settled relationship between scrum-half and fly-half is the fulcrum for any successful side, and Argentina look to have settled on their pair with a year to go before the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Gonzalo Betranou will hope to keep hold of the number nine shirt, with the 28-year-old starting most of Los Pumas’ matches in the Rugby Championship.

Wales-based Bertranou looks to have edged ahead of the more experienced Tomas Cubelli, but the 33-year-old will provide as good a back-up as any should he be unable to usurp his compatriot. Lautaro Bazán currently sits third in line.

Whoever is in at nine, they’ll almost certainly be inside Santiago Carreras orchestrating proceedings from ten.

Argentina

Carreras can often be found at full-back for club side Gloucester, but is found calling the shots for Los Pumas in an experiment that appears to be bearing fruit.

The 24-year-old is ahead of Tomas Albornoz and Benjamin Urdapilleta and will hope to round of his international year with a flourish this Autumn Nations Series. Veteran Nicolas Sanchez is currently out with a knee injury, with his return date still to be confirmed.

Centres

If much of the Argentinian side is settled, there is still plenty to be decided in midfield.

Matias Orlando looks in pole position to start throughout the autumn and next year, with the 31-year-old Newcastle Falcon deployed at both inside and outside centre during the Rugby Championship.

The former Jaguares back has partnered both clubmate Matias Moroni and Jeronimo de la Fuente at centre and Cheika will be looking to find the right balance during the trio of fixtures in November.

Defensive standout Moroni will be hoping to use the domestic connection to cement his place for Los Pumas, while De la Fuente started the two most recent Tests against South Africa at 12 and then 13, and will look to keep hold of his starting berth in either shirt.

Back Three

When it comes to Argentina’s back three, Emiliano Boffelli will be the first name on Cheika’s team sheet.

The 27-year-old holds kicking duties for Los Pumas as well as providing a threat with ball in hand from the wing, finishing as top scorer in the 2022 Rugby Championship with 71 points alongside New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga.

Argentina

Alongside Boffelli, Juan Cruz Mallia has asserted himself as the first-choice full-back for Cheika. The decision for the Argentina boss is who will complete his trio.

Veteran Juan Imhoff and youngster Lucio Cinti have both recently worn the number 11, while Bordeaux flyer Santiago Cordero also has a case.

Imhoff offers a wealth of experience thanks to his near-decade spent at Racing 92, while Cinti is at the other end of his career but has shown plenty of cause for excitement for both London Irish and the national team.

Alongside Cordero, 25-year-old Bautista Delguy will hope to prove his worth this Autumn Nations Series as Cheika has plenty of choices in his back three.

Possible XV

15 Juan Cruz Mallia
14 Emiliano Boffelli
13 Matias Moroni
12 Matias Orlando
11 Juan Imhoff
10 Santiago Carreras
9 Gonzalo Bertranou

1 Thomas Gallo
2 Julian Montoya
3 Joel Sclavi
4 Matias Alemanno
5 Tomas Lavanini
6 Juan Martin Gonzalez
7 Marcos Kremer
8 Pablo Matera

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