The Americas Rugby Championship is on the line for the Eagles Saturday as they meet Argentina XV in Patagonia. Last year the Eagles drew Argentina XV in 35 all in the first match of the tournament. The Eagles are undefeated thus far in the Championship but their final opponents will prove the biggest challenge. This match comes after numerous front-line Eagles have left the squad. It will prove quite the mountain for young Eagles. Below TIAR reviews some aspects of the Argentine game across the ARC.
The Eagles have shown a willingness to attack wide channels with the ball-in-hand. In addition, Eagles forwards have been empowered to link and distribute the ball. Argentina XV play with similar width and their tight forwards are similarly comfortable attacking space.
This attacking pattern should be familiar to close Eagles watchers. The ball is fed to the first receiver who passes to an on-coming knot of tight forwards. The lock here turns away and feeds to a midfielder coming from deep.
The Argentine’s aren’t just interested in moving the ball wide… they pick gaps too. This can slow and weaken drift defenses.
Generally, the Argentinian’s are comfortable and accurate passing close to the defense. The tentativeness of the defense around the pivot man on this loop allows them to get outside. It’s incumbent on the Eagles midfield to press quickly and disrupt this connection.
Here is a very risky but well-executed cut-out pass taking advantage of a dog-leg in the defense.
Meeting the Elephant
The Argentine’s writ large have a reputation as being some of the best scrummagers in the world. The Argentina XV moved teams around at times but were by no means world-beaters. This campaign has seen the Eagles progress in the set-piece. Unfortunately they have not imposed their will on any teams thus far. It’s unlikely they will do so on Saturday. But this should be a final challenge for the team. If they can avoid penalties and win all of their own ball cleanly, it will show that this part of the Eagles game is rebounding.
Line of Touch
Last week TIAR highlighted the impressive play of Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta. Part of their value is their ability to win possession at the lineout. In the first half of the Chile match the Eagles lost several of their own throws due to timing and lifts. This is common with new lifting combinations. The pack tightened this up in the 2nd half. Coach John Mitchell will hope that these kinks are worked out because the Argentinians have dominated lineout possession thus far. They have won almost all of their own ball and frequently disrupt opponent’s throws with two jumpers.
Not only does Felipe Contempori’s side win lineout ball, they ruthlessly exploit it as a weapon. In addition to a relentless maul, the Argentinian use the threat of it to attack space around its edges. They will frequently attack the fringes of the maul. This has the effect making posted defenders less likely to immediately commit to slowly the maul. Likewise they will use creative use of this mauling threat to score.
The Argentine’s, however, are not invincible. Across the ARC, there has been a narrowness to their defensive alignment.
Here Canada uses long passing to pick out the wider channels of the Argentine defense. The angle makes it difficult to evaluate the line speed and effort of the defense though.
Like Canada, Uruguay takes advantage of a split field to pick out wide runners. In both cases, the first receiver is standing close and cutting out to a quick trigger midfielder. This is a strategy that could work well for Eagles like JP Eloff and Tony Lamborn.
In any cases, we have to consider whether Argentina is aligning more narrowly as part of their game plan. They may be purposefully taking away the short and medium game of teams like Chile, Uruguay and Canada. If Contempori has done his homework, the Argentine’s midfield may position themselves wider or increase their defensive line speed to take away space out wide. If the Eagles want to grab the Americas Rugby Championship they will be need to be ready to adapt and exploit what space Argentina gives them.