'He's a threat and a focus for us': The crafty playmaker the Wallabies must stop to stay alive in Tri Nations

Tri Nations
by AFP

Skipper Michael Hooper pinpointed playmaker Nicolas Sanchez, along with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, as threats Friday as Australia look to avoid the embarrassing fate of New Zealand when they face Argentina.

Australia head into Saturday's Tri Nations sell-out clash against the Pumas in Newcastle, north of Sydney, buoyed by upsetting the All Blacks a fortnight

But Argentina's even more stunning 25-15 victory over Ian Foster's men last week quickly blew away any Australian complacency.

"Playing these guys before, we are fully aware of what they are capable of," Hooper said of Argentina.

"They showed so much heart and good discipline (against New Zealand), they've got some really good players coming through and will be a really big threat tomorrow night.

"Argentina have been getting better every year since we started playing them."


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Key to Argentina's win against three-time world champions New Zealand - their first in 35 years - was Sanchez, who scored all the points, including their lone try and six penalties.

"He's quality player, can kick off both feet, he's a running threat, he has a great skill set," Hooper said of the Stade Francais fly-half.

"And he puts his body on the line. He's a really good 10, a really world-class, quality 10. He's played a lot in Europe, he's a threat and he's a focus for us."

- 'We want some silverware' -

Hooper also noted the threat posed by Argentina captain Pablo Matera, referring to him too as world-class.

Another opponent Hooper knows plenty about is Cheika, his former Australia coach who departed acrimoniously after the Wallabies failed World Cup campaign last year.

Cheika is now working as a consultant for Argentina alongside coach Mario Ledesma, with the pair credited with orchestrating the All Blacks' takedown.

"He can offer a hell of a lot. 'Cheik' is a great coach. But I'm not in camp so I don't know what he's talking about," said Hooper.

"But Cheik had a good knack of keeping you on your toes, so I'm sure he's been keeping them on their toes after a good performance last week.

"I'm not sure what he's going to be throwing out and what their boys will be coming up with this week, but it's imperative for us to focus on ourselves and what we want to deliver."

Australia head into the game with one win from two in the Tri Nations, needing victory to maintain their title. New Zealand have lost two and won one, while the Pumas have games in hand, winning their only match so far. 

The head-to-head is heavily in Australia's favour, after winning 17 of their last 19 games against Argentina.

"We've made no bones that we want to put some silverware in our closet again," said Hooper.

"We're clear on what we're trying to achieve and the pressure is for us to want to be able to do that."


WALLABIES (1-15): Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Tom Banks

RESERVES: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Filipo Daugunu

PUMAS (1-15): Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanni, Pablo Matera (c), Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Tomas Cubelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Imhoff, Santiago Chocobares, Matias Orlando, Bautista Delguy, Santiago Carreras

RESERVES: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Grondona, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero