By the time this match kicks off in Saint-Étienne on Friday, 13 days will have passed since Argentina’s last outing – the 27-10 loss to England in Marseille.
Coach Michael Cheika will have spent a good deal of that time working to improve the Pumas’ discipline and attacking game for this match against Samoa – one they now cannot afford to lose.
He has made three changes to his starting XV, with Eduardo Bello coming into the front-row, Guido Petti Pagadizabal into the second-row, and Matías Moroni into the midfield.
Samoa, meanwhile, are second in Pool D after their 43-10 win over Chile. Their relatively short turnaround compared to Argentina leaves coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua facing a different set of issues.
He too has made three changes to his starting XV. Paul Alo-Emile comes into the front-row, Brian Alainu’u’ese into the second-row, and Ben Lam onto the wing.
FIXTURE: Argentina v Samoa
GROUND: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne (41,965)
KICK-OFF: 17:45 local time (GMT+2)
Samoa have won three of the four historic meetings between the two sides dating back to the first one, at Pontypridd’s Sardis Road, in 1991. But their last match, in Buenos Aires, was 18 years ago – in December 2005.
Argentina beat Samoa 32-16 at Llanelli’s Stradey Park at Rugby World Cup 1999. It may seem hard to believe now, for a side that has racked up a third- and fourth-place finish and two quarter-final appearances since 1999, but Argentina had lost nine of their first 10 Rugby World Cup matches, prior to that match in south Wales.
It kick-started a run of Rugby World Cup performances that has seen Argentina to two quarter-finals, and fourth- and third-place finishes in the tournaments that have followed.
KEY TALKING POINT
It’s been a while since Argentina’s last outing in France, but their reaction to that defeat against England – and what they have learned from it – will be vital. Despite previous Rugby World Cup experience, a number of players seemed a little out of sorts in Marseille as George Ford kicked them out of the game. Cheika has said that he is confident the Pumas will bounce back. We’ll find out in Saint-Étienne.
Juan Cruz Mallia v Duncan Paia’aua. Two of world rugby’s quietly versatile ‘Swiss Army backs’ go head to head at 15. The Argentinian has played in every position from 10 to 15 for Top 14 side Stade Toulousain, while his opposite number has played 10, 12, 13, and 15 for RC Toulon.
Paia’aua is the only player to have played every minute for Samoa this year across all five tests. He is currently on a three-game try-scoring run, after crossing just once across his first four tests for Samoa.
If he’s used off the bench, veteran hooker Agustín Creevy will move to joint second all-time in RWC appearances for Los Pumas, level with Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, on 17 matches. Only Mario Ledesma has played more times – he racked up 18 between 1999 and 2011.
Nic Berry (Australia). This is Berry’s second Rugby World Cup in France. In 2007, he was playing scrum-half for French side Racing Métro and got involved in the tournament as a fan.
ARGENTINA Juan Cruz Mallia; Emiliano Boffelli, Matías Moroni, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Thomas Gallo, Julian Montoya (captain), Eduardo Bello; Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Matias Alemanno; Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez
Replacements: Agustín Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Pedro Rubiolo, Rodrigo Bruni, Tomas Cubelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Lucio Cinti
SAMOA Duncan Paia’aua; Nigel Ah-Wong, Ulupano Junior Seuteni, Tumua Manu, Ben Lam; Christian Leali’ifano, Jonathan Taumateine; James Lay, Seilala Lam, Paul Alo-Emile; Brian Alainu’u’ese, Chris Vui (captain); Theo McFarland, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua
Replacements: Sama Malolo, Charlie Faumuina, Michael Alaalatoa, Taleni Junior Agaese Seu, Sa Jordan Taufua, Melani Matavao, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Danny Toala