Australia and Argentina climb World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini
Your regular Monday rankings update following the third round of the Rugby Championship 2022 which brought wins for Australia and Argentina.
As we head into the second half of The Rugby Championship 2022, the standings have something of an unfamiliar feel.
Leading the way are Argentina, who have finished higher than fourth only once since their tournament debut in 2012, following their historic defeat of New Zealand in Christchurch.
Australia are below Los Pumas only on points difference, while Webb Ellis Cup holders South Africa are currently bottom.
With only five points separating the Springboks in fourth and Argentina at the top, however, that could all change this weekend as the All Blacks host Los Pumas in Hamilton and the Wallabies take on South Africa in Sydney.
Los Pumas head to FMG Stadium hoping to build on their first ever win against the All Blacks in New Zealand and consolidate their place at the top of the current standings.
Juan Martín González scored Argentina’s only try in their 25-18 victory in Christchurch last weekend, however, the flanker has dropped to the bench for this weekend’s match.
Santiago Grondona comes in for González, while Guido Petti has been recalled to the second-row, where Matías Alemanno makes way.
In the backs, Santiago Cordero has been selected on the left wing in place of Lucio Cinti and scrum-half Tomás Cubelli starts in place of Gonzalo Bertranou.
Ahead of the match in Hamilton, coach Michael Cheika was asked whether his pace-setting Pumas were favourites against the three-time Rugby World Cup winners – and refused to take the bait.
“We’re in New Zealand, playing against New Zealand,” Cheika said. “We’re about as underdog as you get. The guys that need to believe we can do it is us.
“We’ve got no expectations on ourselves except for the quality of our play. As in life, good things happen when you work hard and you’re good at your craft.”
New Zealand have named an unchanged starting line-up for the match against Argentina, as they bid to get their campaign back on track.
The only changes come on the replacements’ bench, where Dan Coles returns alongside second-row Brodie Retallick, flanker Dalton Papali’I and fly-half Beauden Barrett.
Rugby World Cup 2015 winner Barrett has played more tests against Los Pumas than any other All Black (16) and has scored 89 points across those appearances.
He is confident that the work being done in training by the players, coach Ian Foster and new selector-coach Joe Schmidt will translate into a performance on the pitch against Argentina.
"It's all about building good habits and doing it all the time rather than sometimes. Joe has been good in that space.
"There's no doubt he and Fozzie are finding their feet and how they're going to run things, but Joe has been awesome, and so has Fozzie (Foster).
"I think we'll see the fruits of that hopefully this weekend and games to come."
Australia coach Dave Rennie has done something he has never done before in test rugby for the Wallabies’ meeting with South Africa and named an unchanged starting line-up.
Last weekend, the Wallabies beat the Springboks for the third time in a row as a brace of tries from Fraser McReight and a Marika Koroibete touch down earned a 25-17 victory in Adelaide.
That means prop James Slipper will captain the side as he makes his 121st appearance for his country, pulling alongside Michael Hooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper as Australia’s third-most capped male player.
The only change to the squad comes on the replacements’ bench where Waratahs captain Jake Gordon is brought in as scrum-half cover.
“It's great to be able to have some consistency in selection with the team that played last week earning the right to wear the jersey again in Sydney,” Rennie said.
"While rapt with last week's effort, we’re well aware of the challenge a wounded Springbok poses and the intensity we will require again on Saturday night.
"We're excited by the opportunity to play in front of a sold-out crowd in the first International event at the new Allianz Stadium."
In contrast to his opposite number, Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has been forced into changes as Handré Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Pieter-Steph du Toit are all ruled out through knee injuries.
Pollard’s replacement last weekend, Elton Jantjies, is also in the treatment room, meanwhile, meaning Damian Willemse has been handed the number 10 jersey for Saturday’s encounter.
In total, Nienaber has made eight changes to the side that lost against the Wallabies in Adelaide.
Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese all come into the forward pack, while 19-year-old Canan Moodie, Jaden Hendrikse and Willie le Roux are named alongside Willemse in the backline.
Deon Fourie, Trevor Nyakane, Corbus Reinach and Frans Steyn have also been drafted into the matchday 23 and will start on the bench. Reinach backed that quartet of replacements to hit the ground running this weekend.
“If you look at the way we train I don’t think anyone is coming in cold," he said.
“We go full on at training, as we train the way we want to play. I have also been part of the squad from the beginning of the season, so even though I haven’t played in months I’m excited to get onto the park and play.
“It is really nice to be back, I’m so excited to get onto the field I can’t sleep at night.”