LONDON • Michael Cheika's Australia have got over the shock of almost tumbling out of the Rugby World Cup and say they are ready to end Argentina's impressive run in their semi-final today.
But the Twickenham clash has been given added punch by the rise of the new Southern Hemisphere rugby power under Daniel Hourcade, who is determined to give the two-time World Cup champions a hard time.
The Pumas have beaten Australia and South Africa in the past year and crushed Ireland 43-20 in the quarter-final with their free-flowing rugby.
Cheika was forced on the defensive after Australia needed a wrongly-given last-minute penalty to beat Scotland 35-34 in their quarter-final last weekend.
The coach blamed himself for not having the Wallabies in the right mental state to confront Scotland. But he insisted that has changed. "Their heads are in a good state," he said.
Australia v Argentina: Key battles
JAMES SLIPPER v RAMIRO HERRERA
Slipper, who has replaced the injured Scott Sio, will be the Wallabies' loosehead prop. He will have to use his vast experience to get the better of the robust Herrera.
Argentina's tighthead employed his strength to good effect at the scrum against Ireland. His rough approach should aid the Pumas.
For both teams it is vital to end up on top at the scrum as that could well decide the outcome of the match.
BERNARD FOLEY v NICOLAS SANCHEZ
Foley was cool under pressure to book Australia's place in the final. But it was not an impressive performance overall against Scotland, as he dropped high balls and kicked inaccurately on several occasions.
He will have to be on his toes against Argentina as he comes up against Sanchez, who has been in brilliant form, lifting his side in the process, and goal-kicking with authority.
MATT GITEAU v JUAN MARTIN HERNANDEZ
The inside centres know each other's game inside out as they were team-mates at Toulon. Both are creative and experienced but they have not exactly set this Rugby World Cup on fire.
Giteau sparkled only against England, while Hernandez showed his skills just against New Zealand. Difficult to say who will outshine the other today.
STEPHEN MOORE v AGUSTIN CREEVY
The clash of the hookers and captains will be interesting as both have played crucial roles in each team's run to the semi-finals.
They have been playing against each other since 2012 but Moore will have to be particularly inspirational today as he comes up against Creevy, who embodies the spirit and flair with which Argentina are currently playing.
DREW MITCHELL & ADAM ASHLEY-COOPER v JUAN IMHOFF & SANTIAGO CORDERO
Australia's wing pairing of Mitchell and Ashley-Cooper are experienced. But they have to withstand the pace of Imhoff and Cordero.
The Argentinians are creative too and the Wallabies will have to tighten their defence to stem their rivals out wide.
Argentina, who also reached the semi-finals in 2007, will also face a scrum, whose coach, Mario Ledesma, knows the Pumas intimately. The former Argentina hooker only retired after the 2011 World Cup.
Cheika, who has just celebrated the anniversary of his taking over from the troubled reign of Ewen McKenzie, said Ledesma's patriotism will not distract him from the task at hand.
"It's interesting because we're up against his country of birth he's played passionately for," said Cheika, whose predecessor McKenzie's end was precipitated by a rare reverse against the Pumas in October last year. "You go into battle against those guys that you played with for many years and I think it inspires you to do better."
The Wallabies have been boosted for their sixth semi-final by the return of star full-back Israel Folau and No. 8 David Pocock - who have recovered from ankle and calf injuries respectively.
Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore can see no quarter being given all over the pitch. "As a front rower the set piece, the scrum, the line-out and the driving maul will be huge weapons to counter," the 32-year-old said. "But they have developed a very attacking game, lots of flair and with a strong back three who are very creative and keen to get their hands on the ball, it is now a big part of their game."
Central to Argentinian hopes of reaching the final will be fly-half Nicolas Sanchez and experienced centre Juan Martin Hernandez, whose artistry has earned him the nickname, "The Magician".
Pumas coach Hourcade, who like Cheika has bonded together a squad he found riven apart when he replaced Santiago Phelan in October 2013, believes their peak is still some way off.
ARGENTINA V AUSTRALIA
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