Australia will not underestimate ‘dangerous’ Argentina, says Matt Giteau

• Playmaker praises Pumas’ ‘beautiful man’ Juan Martín Hernández
• Giteau delighted with warm welcome back to Australia World Cup squad

Until a few months ago the Australia playmaker Matt Giteau expected that he would spend the Rugby World Cup “doing some speaking gigs and earning some cash”. Instead he is using his whip-sharp oratory to warn the Wallabies of the looming dangers in Argentina’s squad – particularly from his Toulon team-mate Juan Martín Hernández.

Giteau has seen at first hand what El Mago can conjure up – but joked that he admired him for more than just his rugby skills. “He’s a beautiful man,” he said, smiling. “I’ve always told him that at Toulon.” But after the laughter had died down in Australia’s press conference Giteau got serious. “He’s very skilful, he’s tough, defensively strong and he adds a lot of stability to that team,” he added. “I know what it’s like to play with him, especially in big games, and he’s a very good player.

“He’s very confident and the things he can do, a lot of other players can’t. I have a lot of respect for him.”

That respect extends to an Argentina side that unexpectedly blew away Ireland in the final stages of their quarter-final. “They’re incredibly dangerous,” warned Giteau. “You saw what they did to Ireland and how far they pushed New Zealand in the first game. They’ve blown teams away quite easily. You can’t underestimate them. We won’t underestimate them. It just won’t happen.

“They are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. They are a very physical team, they are very passionate, but they also like to throw the ball around. They’re not just good up front, they’re good everywhere. If you give them loose ball they are going to punish you.”

Giteau has played only once against Argentina in his 13-year international career, in the opening game of the World Cup in 2003, in part because he did not play for the Wallabies from 2011 to 2015 because of rules barring foreign-based players from representing Australia.

But now they have been relaxed, Giteau, 33, admits he is loving the experience of being back with Australia. “It’s just been an amazing ride for me this last six months,” he said. “To come back in and to be welcomed in by such a great group, they’ve made me feel so welcome straight away.

“Even the guys that don’t get a lot of game time have been superb around the group,” he added. “That just speaks volumes about the environment that’s been created by the coaches but also the one that’s been created by the leaders as well.”

The Australia flanker Scott Fardy expects Sunday’s semi-final to be won up front and believes his side can match the Pumas’ pack at the scrum. “I played them this year in Mendoza, it was a tough, physical battle so we’re expecting the same when we come up against them on Sunday,” he said. “They’re always such a big, physical side and love the set piece.”

Fardy also paid tribute to the Wallabies coach, Michael Cheika, and claimed that he was not as scary to play under as is assumed. “There’s a lot of love for Cheik – the boys really enjoy playing under him,” he said.

“He’s got a lot of passion and that comes through in his coaching and it comes through in the way he talks, but there’s also a lot of love and respect for Cheik within the group.”

Fardy joked that Cheika still liked to join in training and throw his weight around even though he was getting “a bit old now”, but said the squad appreciated how he was driving them – and himself – to get better.

“I think he really enjoys the process of getting better and he pushes that on to his players,” he said. “He wants to improve, and we all want to improve as a group. That’s what we’re all trying to do.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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