Australia has been the biggest disappointment of the Rugby Championship and Ewen McKenzie’s selection for its next match versus Argentina could backfire spectacularly.
Under the kind of pressure that his predecessor, Robbie Deans, had to endure for many years, McKenzie has cracked midway through his first competition, dropping Will Genia and elevating Nic White to Australia’s starting halfback.
Genia is not playing to his usual high standard but the Reds halfback is not deserving of being Australia captain one week and one of its replacements the next. Pick a World XV and Genia would be the only Australia player who would earn a berth, with most of his contemporaries rating him as the best number nine of the current crop. McKenzie’s dumping of Genia demonstrates that no-one’s place in the Australia side is guaranteed but the positives of the coach’s bold stance outweigh the negatives. Quite simply, Australia will not improve by swapping Genia for White because the Wallabies have much bigger weaknesses in other areas of its team.
Australia’s pack is just not up to scratch against those of Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. One of the reasons why Genia has been below his best in recent games is that he has had to play like an extra back-row forward because the men in front of him have not been doing their jobs. The new scrum laws have not enabled Australia to achieve parity in its three Rugby Championship matches this season and the Wallabies are playing some of their best forwards out of position. For example, McKenzie keeps picking Ben Mowen at number eight when he is much better suited to number six.
The heat is on Australia and, if the first three rounds of the Rugby Championship are any guide, the Wallabies are more likely to wilt under the pressure that comes with a must-win home game versus the competition’s supposed whipping boy, Argentina. Rugby union basics went out of the window when New Zealand and South Africa placed Australia under duress and Argentina has a pack every bit as strong as those of the All Blacks and the Springboks. Argentina play intimidating, physical rugby union and, unless Australia improves out of sight on its recent efforts, the Pumas must have a great chance of beating the Wallabies at Patersons Stadium.
Ladbrokes is offering odds of 1.80 that Argentina stays inside its 11.5-point spread in Perth. That is the Rugby Championship bet of the week for punters who do not like to live on the wild side. Backing Argentina at odds of 5.00 with Stan James to humiliate Australia in Perth is the punt to have if one likes to live dangerously.
Of the exotics in the Rugby Championship match between Australia and Argentina, the market on the first scoring play is the one on which to focus. The likelihood is that Argentina will earn penalties at the expense of Australia’s creaking scrum so the value play is to back the Pumas to open the scoring with a successful penalty kick. One can take odds of 2.88 with Ladbrokes that Argentina leads 3-0.
All of the suggested Australia against Argentina bets take into the account for weather forecast for Perth not only on the day of the game but also in the lead up to the match. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting that Perth will receive showers between now and kick-off time, with thunderstorms on the agenda for the morning of the game.
New Zealand and South Africa meet at Eden Park in Auckland in the other Rugby Championship match in the round. New Zealand has not lost at Eden Park since 1994 so the odds favour the All Blacks beating the Springboks and assuming top spot on the Rugby Championship ladder. New Zealand is around a converted-try favourite and that feels about right even though South Africa has won its last nine Tests. There is not the same value in backing either New Zealand or South Africa at the various handicap lines compared to the value available in backing Argentina to upset Australia.