Australia have a team who tick almost all the boxes but Argentina have developed an all-court game

  • Australia face Argentina in second World Cup semi-final on Sunday
  • Winners will face New Zealand following 20-18 victory over South Africa

I am expecting Sunday's semi-final between Australia and Argentina to be one of the games of a tournament that has been full of great match-ups.

On the one hand, we have Australia, the masters of maximising every last ounce of talent. On the other, the Pumas who are just beginning to realise what glories could await if they can harness all their natural ability.

Australia prepare for World Cup semi-final at The Lensbury Hotel in Teddington on Saturday

Australia prepare for World Cup semi-final at The Lensbury Hotel in Teddington on Saturday

I have spoken many times about my admiration for the Wallabies and they have been absolutely true to form at this World Cup. Brilliantly coached, they continue to improvise and find space and time in the madness of a full-scale Test like few others. Add that to a defence that can survive that remarkable battering against Wales two weeks ago and you have a team who tick almost all the boxes.

As for the Pumas — what an extraordinary transformation in their game we have witnessed in recent years. Their elevation into the Rugby Championship has had a massive galvanising effect. 

The Wallabies have been brilliantly coached during the tournament by Michael Cheika

The Wallabies have been brilliantly coached during the tournament by Michael Cheika

For four years now they have been going head to head with the Southern Hemisphere giants and the Pumas have embarked on possibly the biggest learning curve in rugby history. You simply cannot compete against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa — home and away — unless you develop an all-court game.

Argentina have always had powerful fiery forwards. Equally, they have always had talented backs. It’s just that they largely didn’t use them! They were always secondary to the primary business of bossing the forward battle.

Argentina have undergone an extraordinary transformation in recent years

Argentina have undergone an extraordinary transformation in recent years

But that has all changed. Argentina now have 12 community academies around the nation tasked with producing rugby players pure and simple, not just employees for the teams because there are no professional clubs, although a Super 15 franchise will start next year.

The Pampas Development XV that has contested the Vodacom Cup in South Africa has been a stunning success and the icing on the cake has been the input of consultant coaches such as Fabian Galthie, Graham Henry and Michael Cheika.

Australia's clash against Argentina has all the ingredients to be one of the games of a tournament

Australia's clash against Argentina has all the ingredients to be one of the games of a tournament

All this is reflected best in their highly intelligent use of two playmakers in the back division. The emergence of the excellent Nicolas Sanchez has meant that Juan Martin Hernandez can now operate at inside centre where he can provide a second playmaking and kicking option. It must be a joy to be one of the Pumas back three.

We see Australia doing exactly the same with Bernard Foley and Matt Giteau, while New Zealand always have somebody inside their fly-half who can act as playmaker and a second kicking option. England should and could have been doing the same since the 2011 World Cup. Today we will again see that it is the way forward.

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