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Wales and Argentina keen to shake-up rugby world

CARDIFF (AFP) –

Wales are the reigning European champions, having claimed a third clean sweep of the Six Nations in eight years

Wales’ full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicks a penalty during a rugby union Test match against Italy, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in March. Wales host Argentina next, on Saturday.

Two nations threatening to shake-up the rugby world order face each other when Wales welcome Argentina to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The red dragons of Wales and Los Pumas of South America may only be ranked sixth and eighth, respectively, in the International Rugby Board standings but are arguably the most improved Test teams of recent years.

Hosts Wales are the reigning European champions, having claimed a third clean sweep of the Six Nations in eight years in March, on the back of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in New Zealand.

Meanwhile Argentina come into the match fresh from a promising debut in the Rugby Championship that saw them prove stubborn opponents to the might of world champions New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with the Pumas managing a draw against the Springboks.

Saturday’s contest will indicate how much either side has learned from recently facing the top three teams in the world and go a long way to defining their final campaign of the year.

Wales captain Sam Warburton is braced for a tough month of rugby with Samoa, the All Blacks and Wallabies following Argentina to Cardiff in successive weeks.

Argentina come into Saturday's match against Wales fresh from a promising debut in the Rugby Championship

Argentina’s Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe takes the line out ball during a rugby union Test match against New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, in September. Argentina play Wales next, at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, on Saturday.

“The great thing about the autumn is that you’re playing the best teams in the world back-to-back at the Millennium Stadium,” said Warburton.

“Even in the Six Nations we get the odd week off between games so physically and mentally it’s a tough and demanding campaign because with games one after the other,” the flanker added.

“Argentina’s involvement in the Rugby Championship will have done them so much good and their standard of rugby will have gone through the roof from playing in that intensity.

“It’s a massive challenge but hopefully we can get off to a winning start because momentum is always the key thing in these campaigns, as it was in the Six Nations and World Cup.

“We need to click from the off as a good win could set up a good campaign, and we’ve given ourselves every possible chance by having a good build-up.”

Wales, who twice lost narrowly away to Australia in June, prepared for this series of games with their now customary camp at a former Olympic facility in Poland where players use chryotherapy chambers, in which they are exposed to temperatures as low as -140 degrees, to aid recovery.

“It’s a pretty brutal week that none of the players enjoy but it’s worth it because we have all seen the results of that hard from previous trips before the World Cup and Six Nations,” said Warburton.

Wales include 11 of their Grand Slam winning team but hand a debut to 26-year-old prop Aaron Jarvis as well as only a second Test start for flanker Josh Turnbull following injuries to front-row Adam Jones and loose forwards Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones.

Argentina start with 11 players who appeared in the Rugby Championship team but have recalled two vastly experienced former fly-halves in Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martin Hernandez to their back division.

“To be playing against the best three teams in the world was great competition for us,” said Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

“We have tried to take advantage of that and hopefully use all the experience we have gained to keep improving.

“But we know it is going to be a tough challenge at the Millennium Stadium which is a great place to play rugby.

“Wales are full of great players who have been together for a long time and we saw how close they came to Australia in June.”

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