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Wales v Argentina scrum war brews

Autumn internationals - Wales v Argentina
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 21 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Exclusively live on BBC ONE Wales and online, full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live


Lobbe backs 'world's best' front row

As Wales prepare to take on Argentina on Saturday, the strength of both scrums is under scrutiny after Wales coach Warren Gatland stoked the fires.

Wales have struggled in the scrum but claim they will attack the Pumas there.

Asked for his thoughts on Argentina's status as arguably the world's greatest scrummagers, Gatland said: "I disagree... they are not the greatest."

But Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma said: "I'm happy... if he thinks that - we just have to prove him wrong."

The scrum is the emblematic element of the Pumas' red-blooded style of play, while Wales have struggled up front this November in tight-head Adam Jones' injury absence.

Gatland's comments at the Wales team announcement

Ospreys loose-head prop Paul James has been moved across the scrum to start at tight-head against New Zealand and Samoa.

He held up reasonably well against the All Blacks, whose scrum was given a grilling by Italy in Milan last Saturday.

But James creaked against Samoa - who are not renowned for their set piece - and his replacement, Craig Mitchell, struggled badly in the closing minutes.

Rookie Mitchell is the only dedicated tight-head in the Wales squad, although first-choice loose-head Gethin Jenkins can also play there.


Sale prop Eifion Roberts is generally seen as the hardest-scrummaging tight-head amongst the fit Wales contenders, but he was left out of the squad for the four-Test November series.

Gatland has chosen the flashpoint of the scrum to make a comment which could cause a stir.

He referred to comments by England scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree, who said he thought Australia's scrum was significantly stronger than the Argentine one.

"We've looked at tapes of the past. We need to back ourselves at the scrum," Gatland added.

"We are not going to put [Argentina's] scrum on a pedestal.

"We've got to make sure we switch on - it is not a big issue for us."

However, veteran Clermont Auvergne hooker Ledesma, 36, responded: "Wales' team don't have many weak spots - we must attack that one [the scrum].

Argentina ready for Wales challenge

"I don't think we're the best scrum in the world, but we're not the worst. I agree you have to prove it week-in, week-out.

"In the 1980s and 1990s we were really working hard on our scrum, then everyone else started to do the same.

"It's a good platform of attack and psychologically very important for the damage it can do to another team.

"We will try to do our best to disturb them. We are only the vectors in the front row, the strength comes through us - it's a collective effort. It's simple but not everyone does it well."

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde supported Gatland's assertion that the set piece could be a source of Welsh strength, though.

"We are not thinking about playing off the back foot for one minute, if you think that you are already onto a loser," said the former Wales hooker.

Jones excited by Puma scrum strength

"The scrum is a big part of Argentina's game, they pride themselves on it and on the physical element of the game like driving mauls.

"They look to bully you up front and they've got the armoury to do it.

"We have to make sure we are secure and try to exert a bit of pressure on the Argentina ball as well.

"Looking at the game from two years ago [when Gareth Jenkins' Wales side won 27-20] and we managed to do that.

"There are some familiar faces in both packs and we take confidence from that.

"I'm more than confident in the ability of all the forwards.

"We are giving Paul [James] time to mature. He hasn't been on the international stage for a while, but we were more than happy with his performance against the All Blacks.

"He stepped up with his work-rate around the field against Samoa but it obviously didn't go too well at the scrum.

Jones primed for Argentine power

"But we've got enough confidence that Paul can do a job on Saturday, and with Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins we've got two thirds of a Lions front row.

"It's educating the rest of the pack to give Paul the support he needs, and we've done that this week."

Wales are bidding for their first back-to-back wins over the Pumas for 10 years as Argentina have won four of the last six meetings between the two nations.


Jenkins prepared for Puma power

Argentina: Horacio Agulla (Brive); Lucas Borges (Albi), Gonzalo Tiesi (Harlequins), Martin Rodriguez (Rosario), Mauro Comuzzi (Pucara); Santiago Fernandez (Hindu), Agustin Figuerola (CASI); Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais), Mario Ledesma (Clermont Auvergne), Martin Scelzo (Clermont Auvergne), Mariano Sambucetti (Bristol), Patricio Albacete (Toulouse), Tomas Leonardi (San Isidro), Alejandro Abadie (Rovigo), Juan Fernandez Lobbe (Toulon, capt).
Replacements: Alberto Vernet Basualdo (Toulouse), Marcos Ayerza (Leicester), Manuel Carizza (Biarritz), Alejandro Campos (Montauban), Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish), Benjamin Urdapilleta (CUBA), Horacio San Martin (Tala).

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see also
Rees on firm ground against Pumas
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Welsh try 'concern' for Williams
19 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Thomas called up to Wales bench
19 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Cooper admits scrum-half pressure
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Davies told to fill creative gap
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Pumas make two changes for Wales
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 33-16 Argentina
21 Nov 09 |  Welsh
England 16-9 Argentina
14 Nov 09 |  English
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 12-19 New Zealand
07 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Puma power: Argentinian rugby
16 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Argentina: Full record
28 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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