Wallabies need to add points to progress against Pumas

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua admits Australia needs some immediate pay against Argentina in Salta but has urged for patience when it comes to his partnership with Kurtley Beale.

Toomua said a victory over the Pumas on Sunday (AEDT) was clearly one they had to nab as they attempt to avoid their first Rugby Championship wooden spoon.

Australia showed an improved effort in Port Elizabeth against the Springboks but have won just two of their past 10 Tests and with the World Cup just a year away, the margin for error is small.

“We need to win, don’t we?,” Toomua said.

“We need to win for a lot of things, to reconfirm a lot of things that we know we’re doing well behind the scenes but just gives you some confirmation that you are heading in the right direction.”

Whether Toomua will start alongside Kurtley Beale in Salta remains to be seen after disappointing results in the Rugby Championship.

Toomua and Beale have now played three Tests together and the Wallabies’ attack has failed to fire, which puts a question mark over their combination.

Usual flyhalf Bernard Foley has shown form coming off the bench after being dropped in Brisbane and the option is still there for him to return to the playmaking position.

With Toomua to return to Leicester after this final Rugby Championship Test, and being unavailable for the third Bledisloe in three weeks, the argument could be swung either way.

A Foley return could re-unite the Waratahs no.10 with long-time partner Beale, ahead of that final trans-Tasman Test, and potentially give the team a level of familiarity in their attack.

But Toomua is a class player, and his direct strengths and kicking games are both also valuable. 

It seems unlikely Michael Cheika would pair Foley and Toomua in the midfield, given that would be another all-new combination and not to mention Cheika is a big fan of Beale.

When Foley has come on in the past three Tests, Beale has shifted to fullback but the form of Dane Haylett-Petty in that spot also makes the likelihood of all three starting almost nil.

Beale threw a try-conceding intercept pass in the first 30 seconds in Port Elizabeth but Toomua said he felt that the 23-12 loss to the Springboks was the best outing they'd had as a duo.

“I thought that was probably one of the better games that we’ve linked up in attack and we’ve got to keep building that,” he said.

“Unfortunately we all wish it was an overnight thing but it’s not, these things take time and it’s something we’re consistently working on so hopefully we can get a breakthrough, one with a result, and two with a good performance as well.”

Attempting to build a long-term partnership under the scrutiny the Wallabies find themselves in after just two wins in their past 10 Tests is not ideal but Toomua said they simply had to stick at it.

“No one wants it to work quicker than we do. It’s a constant process unfortunately and that’s something we’ll keep at.”

Toomua’s backline teammate Dane Haylett-Petty said there was no guarantee any one selection solution would bring everything together immediately for Australia’s backline.

“I don't think there's a silver bullet or quick fix,” he said.

“The last little bit of the puzzle for us at this level the margins are so fine and we saw last time we played Argentina the difference between the win and loss is very,very tight.”

The Wallabies will spend the first half of the week in Buenos Aires before flying to Salta on Thursday night, giving them just two days to adjust to the city’s altitude.

Salta is 1152m above sea level, roughly 250m lower than South Africa's Bloemfontein and almost 600m below Johannesburg but the air will have a noticeable change.

Argentina will spend the week in Salta but Toomua dismissed the suggestion the elevation or their time in that air would play little part in Sunday’s Test, saying in fact the Wallabies had not discussed it as a factor.

“We've all had a bit of experience at altitude. I actually didn't know Salta was at altitude, to be honest with you, until you told me then,” he said.

“It's something you mention a little bit as a game controller, you probably can manage breaks a bit better if you feel guys are getting a bit spent, either using the kicking game or taking some unofficial time outs just to get that second wind.

“It's definitely a case of fighting through that and getting that second wind, because it does come.”

The Wallabies take on Argentina in Salta on Sunday October 7 (AEDT), kicking off at 9:40am AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Channel Ten.