Hooper, Wallabies not carrying ghosts of Mendoza's past

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

There are memories on either end of the emotional spectrum awaiting Michael Hooper and the Wallabies at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

The picturesque Mendoza stadium is the scene of their only loss to the Pumas in the Rugby Championship era, in 2014, but it's also the home of a solid 34-9 win in the year that followed.

There are very few Wallabies that featured in that 2014 side - six of the 23, to be exact - and that has Hooper focusing on the clash at hand on Sunday (AEDT), rather than a performance from an almost unrecognisable Australian side three years ago.

"I'd actually like to see who is here today that was here a couple of years ago," Hooper said.

"It's a completely different team and we have been building since June, but really August, since this team has come together."Michael Hooper and the Wallabies were beaten by the Pumas in 2014. Photo: Getty ImagesThe team that Hooper speaks of is one coach Michael Cheika has handpicked with eyes to the 2019 World Cup.

Cheika has stuck solid with the large majority of his starting XV but the backrow is one area he has tweaked in trying to find the right balance to work alongside the Australian skipper.

"I’m enjoying the spread and how it’s working and getting new people in and showing a different style of how it can be done," Hooper said.

"I was impressed by Jack (Dempsey)'s performance last week.

"I know he didn’t get too much of an opportunity with hands on the ball but this game, if it’s anything like it is today, it’s going to be a really good spectacle tomorrow.

"We know the Argentinians like to play, there are going to be some great opportunities for him to put his stamp on the game and then Sean (McMahon) is doing what Sean does best.

"He’s getting involved and just breaking tackles that you don’t think he’d be able to break."

The combination worked well in providing clean ball for Will Genia, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale against the Springboks last Saturday.

The attacking ruck has been Australia's achilles heel in the matches where they have struggled this year.

It was one of the alarming deficiencies in the loss to Scotland and it reared its ugly ahead against South Africa in Perth, as well.

Against the Pumas, Hooper said that part of the match would prove critical to success.

"We have shown when we can hold onto the ball we can put points on - we haven’t been hamstrung to put points on the board this year - and when we’ve been putting points on the board our attacking ruck has been great," Hooper said.

"It starts with a physical carry and then the guys being right up for it.

"When that’s happening, we’re humming."

The Wallabies take on the Pumas in Mendoza on Sunday morning, kicking off at 9:40am AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten and Win.