The Pumas are on the Rugby World Cup prowl again and will have designs on going deep into this year’s edition, just as they did the last time France hosted the tournament.
The South American nation took the bronze medal back from France in 2007, and after a solid summer, they are ones to watch this autumn.
Thomas Gallo (Treviso), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Treviso), Eduardo Bello (Newcastle), Joel Sclavi (La Rochelle), Francisco Gomez Kodela (Lyon), Agustin Creevy (Sale), Julian Montoya (Leicester), Ignacio Ruiz (unattached), Matias Alemanno (Gloucester), Tomas Lavanini (Clermont), Guido Petti (Bordeaux-Begles), Rodrigo Bruni (Bayonne) Juan Martin Gonzalez (Saracens), Santiago Grondona (Bristol), Facundo Isa (Toulon), Marcos Kremer (Clermont), Pablo Matera (Honda Heat), Pedro Rubiolo (Newcastle)
Lautaro Bazan Velez (Rovigo), Gonzalo Bertranou (Dragons), Tomas Cubelli (Miami), Santiago Carreras (Gloucester), Nicolas Sanchez (unattached). Santiago Chocobares (Toulouse), Lucio Cinti (Saracens), Jeronimo De La Fuente (Perpignan), Matias Moroni (Newcastle), Emiliano Boffelli (Edinburgh) Mateo Carreras (Newcastle), Juan Imhoff (Racing 92), Rodrigo Isgro (Mendoza), Martin Bogado (Highlanders), Juan Cruz Mallia (Toulouse)
Michael Cheika will be coaching at his second World Cup in less than 12 months and his third Rugby World Cup overall when he leads out Argentina in France.
The Sydney-born tactician guided Australia through the 2015 and 2019 editions of the Rugby World Cup, with the Wallabies reaching the final in 2015 as they came up short against New Zealand in the title decider.
Australia bowed out at the quarter-final stage four years later with Cheika confirming his departure the day after a heavy loss to England, only to be quickly picked up by Argentina to work as an assistant to Mario Ledesma.
Cheika replaced Ledesma as head coach in the summer of 2022 and managed to juggle his responsibilities with also coaching the Lebanon team at that year’s Rugby League World Cup.
Lebanon reached the quarter-finals, which will be the minimum aim for Cheika’s Argentina side in France.
The Australian has overseen six wins from his 16 games in charge, including away successes against New Zealand and England, with Argentina placed in the same pool as the latter for the World Cup.
15. Emiliano Boffelli
14. Matteo Carreras
13. Lucio Cinti
12. Santiago Chocobares
11. Rodrigo Isgro
10. Santiago Carreras
9. Gonzalo Bertranou
8. Juan Martin Gonzalez
7. Santiago Grondona
6. Pablo Matera
5. Tomas Lavanini
4. Matias Alemanno
3. Francisco Gomez Kodela
2. Julian Montoya
1. Thomas Gallo
Argentina’s defensive structure has proven a puzzle for the opposition with the Pumas adopting ideas more commonly seen in rugby league to try and slow the momentum of the other side.
Their combative nature at the breakdown, where they’ve been successful at stealing possession on a regular basis, all plays into the plan to frustrate the opposition.
If the opposition can’t cope with Argentina’s intensity at the breakdown and infringe then they are liable to be punished, with the South Americans proving the most accurate Tier One nation from the kicking tee last year.
Michael Cheika teams are known for being attack-minded but Argentina’s failure to turn possession into points on a regular basis is a concern with only Australia scoring fewer tries during the recent Rugby Championship.
They had the second-highest number of carries in that shortened tournament yet made the fewest metres, and attack coach Felipe Contepomi may need to adjust his plans if the South Americans are going to avoid being heavily reliant on points from the tee.
The all-conquering pack isn’t quite as reliable at set-piece time either and that’s an area where Cheika admits they need to improve.
Leicester hooker Montoya will captain Argentina in what will be his third World Cup and heads into the tournament in excellent form.
The 29-year-old has been outstanding for Leicester in the last two years, boasting a remarkable try-scoring record for the Tigers and being named in the Premiership’s team of the season in each of his two campaigns at Welford Road.
On the international scene, Montoya has skippered Argentina to famous wins over New Zealand and England since succeeding Pablo Matera as captain.
Cinti swapped the defunct London Irish for Saracens during the off-season and has already given his new fans plenty to be excited about with his performances for Argentina in the summer.
The 23-year-old has played every minute of Argentina’s build-up to the Rugby World Cup as a centre having more traditionally played on the wing.
Cinti is seen as someone who can provide that spark to a backline and is vital to an Argentina team short on players capable of beating a defender.
Edinburgh’s versatile back Boffelli has been a vital cog in Cheika’s Argentina side thanks to his near-flawless goal-kicking.
He made 87% of his attempts at the sticks for the Pumas last year, but that number does drop significantly when wearing Edinburgh’s colours.
Boffelli has a tendency to raise his game on the international stage though, and is another member of the backline capable of providing a spark of inspiration.
Only Harlequins’ Cadan Murley (15) scored more tries than Mateo Carreras in the Premiership last season, with the Newcastle wing dotting down 13 times for the Falcons.
He maintained that hot streak through the Rugby Championship, scoring three tries in three games, and it’s no surprise French clubs are already taking a closer look at the instinctive wing.
Juan Martin Gonzalez
In a pack full of man mountains and big hitters, Juan Martin Gonzalez does well to stand out.
Another swapping London Irish for Saracens this summer, the 22-year-old’s athleticism and work rate have seen him catch the eye during the Rugby Championship, particularly in the win in Australia.
All odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.