As the Wallabies come to grips with the loss of Samu Kerevi for the year, Dave Rennie is considering going in with an extra forward on his bench against Michael Cheika’s coached Pumas on Sunday (AEST).
Most Tests are won up front, but in Mendoza against a physical Los Pumas pack, who will likely flood the front line in defence and set a brick wall for the Wallabies to break, Rennie is likely to include six forwards off the bench and go in with just two backs.
If, indeed, Rennie elects for the extra forward it would be selection gamble given the wretched run of misfortune his side have had with injuries, but the Wallabies are bracing for a Pablo Matera-led physical storm.
Should that be the case, Waratahs forward Jed Holloway, who missed the series against England because of a calf-injury, is expected to make his debut.
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Rennie is expected to recall Quade Cooper (calf) at fly-half and Jordan Petaia (concussion) at fullback, with Tate McDermott and Reece Hodge covering multiple positions off the bench.
While Rennie was scrambling for forwards during the Wallabies’ series deciding loss against England at the SCG, the return to full fitness of Holloway, Darcy Swain’s return from suspension and Rory Arnold’s call-up has given the coach some decisions to ponder.
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Nick Frost’s excellent showing in his starting debut has only added to the selection headache.
But in a Test the Wallabies can ill-afford to drop, with Rennie’s win percentage dropping to 39 and a trophy up for grabs with the start of the Rugby Championship, Swain is likely to partner Matt Philip in the second-row, forcing Frost to return to the bench. The Wallabies are likely to ease Japan-bound Arnold back into the squad, having rushed him in following Cadeyrn Neville’s injury.
Holloway, who was expected to play in Perth until injurying his calf in training, is firming for a call-up as Rennie seeks some extra muscle and another lineout specialist.
His call-up is expected to see Rob Leota picked alongside fellow back-rower Pete Samu on the bench.
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Injuries to Angus Bell and Scott Sio will likely see Matt Gibbon come off the bench to make his debut, too.
Hunter Paisami is expected to get the nod in place of Kerevi, who was given the two Tests against Argentina off to play in the Commonwealth Games, and partner Len Ikitau in the midfield.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ikitau said the squad was simply getting on the job and not letting the barrage of injuries effect them.
“It’s been pretty disappointing for the boys that have been getting injured,” he said.
“But for us it’s next man in kind of mentality and doing your job.”
While fans will be eager for the matches to come on home soil later this month, the Wallabies can’t look past their consecutive matches on Argentine soil.
They will face an Argentinian side who have their tails up after an exciting 2-1 series win over Scotland, which gave Cheika the perfect start after replacing his long-time right-hand man Mario Ledesma.
Unsurprisingly Argentina didn’t kick as much as they have in the past with Cheika in the coaching box.
The Wallabies noticed that subtle change and preparing accordingly.
“Obviously last year we played them (and) we won both games but we know that they’re a different type of team,” Ikitau said.
“We’ve watched some footage of them the way they counter. They don’t really kick as much as recent years but we know that they’re going to be dangerous from all over the park.”
The Wallabies will name their squad to play Argentina on Friday morning AEST.