Saturday, 10 November 2012

Wales v Argentina - Preview

Wales can ill afford to consider the forthcoming visit of New Zealand as their first opportunity to claim a major southern hemisphere scalp this autumn.

Saturday's opponents Argentina have earned the right to compete with the best, as they proved in their winless but generally competitive debut in the recent Rugby Championship against the world's top three sides.

It takes two to tango, and if Wales arrive late to the dance then they risk being wrong-footed by their battle-hardened opponents.

Argentina annexed a degree of sophistication to their fabled hard-tackling and spirit during the Rugby Championship, no doubt thanks to the input of former Wales and New Zealand coach Graham Henry, who acted as the Pumas' technical consultant during the tournament.

They led against each of the other three nations, including 19-6 v Australia on the Gold Coast, only to fade in the closing stages each time.

Wales can empathise. The Grand Slam champions surrendered a lead late on in each of their last two summer Tests against Australia. A 3-0 whitewash did not accurately reflect a hard-fought and compelling series in which only 11 points separated both sides over the three Tests.

Those defeats came under the stewardship of Rob Howley, who will continue his role as interim coach for the first two games of the autumn series against Argentina and Samoa, and for the Six Nations campaign that follows while Warren Gatland prepares for next summer's British Lions tour.

Howley followed Gatland's blueprint by taking the Wales squad to a punishing training camp in Poland, as had previously been done ahead of the last World Cup and Six Nations.

Amid the training, players were subjected to several minutes at a time in a cryotherapy chamber - an oversized deep-freeze - at temperatures of minus 140°C, wearing only shorts and socks. The intention is that they are not caught cold for an autumn series that should bring goose bumps.

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