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Wounded and weary Wallabies relying on pride to earn result

Old hand ... Kurtley Beale.

Old hand ... Kurtley Beale. Photo: Getty Images

ROSARIO: Wherever they have gone in Argentina this week, there has been no reprieve for the Wallabies. The locals keep reminding them the whole of Argentina is looking at this weekend's Test as when the Pumas will celebrate their first Rugby Championship triumph.

Turn on the televisions in their hotel rooms and, within minutes, a commercial promoting the Rosario Test will appear to strike fear in any visiting team.

In an elaborate production, it shows the Argentina Test team - surrounded by hundreds of past Pumas - joining arms to become one, and then charging towards the screen with the aim of obliterating anything feeble in their way.

The Wallabies know exactly how that feels. As they attempt to finish their muddled campaign on a high at the Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, there is a feeling of ''backs to the wall'' among the tourists.

With so many injuries, the Wallabies head into this Test very much a Band-Aid operation, relying on numerous key players with niggles to show pride in their national colours and ignore the pain to somehow keep the Pumas at bay.

Beating the Pumas at home is an onerous task, as both the 1987 and 1997 touring Wallabies can testify. In front of the most vocal and distracting of home crowds, the Pumas always lift - relying on their forward prowess and an ability to strangle possession at the breakdown to destabilise any team that fails to match their muscle.

The All Blacks succeeded last week in La Plata, producing one of their best efforts of the season, but they are at the peak of their powers and close to full strength.

The Wallabies aren't. They are well short of their best line-up - the back line has a disjointed, cobbled-together look - while some of their forwards are still recovering from being bashed by the Springboks in Pretoria, and then the day-long trip to the middle of Argentina.

That's why the message all week in the Wallabies camp has been that this is the Test in which the team can show their true character. It revolves around green and gold pride, and the belief the Wallabies often produce their best when everything is against them.

You do feel some sympathy for the Wallabies, as their injury toll this season has been horrendous. So far this season, they have selected 38 players for 10 internationals. That includes five fullbacks, seven wingers and six different centre combinations. There has also been six back-row and five front-row combinations. Some of the changes have been due to form - as the Wallabies have had some miserable moments - but the bulk is due to mangled bodies.

Some of the blame has to be directed towards the game's administrators, including those at the ARU and SANZAR who have contributed to making the season's itinerary so cluttered and overloaded with high-intensity fixtures.

The mantra now is ''too much rugby is never enough''. There is an obvious downside to that.

Not surprisingly, the debate over player welfare has intensified after Australia's leading performers found themselves subjected to endless months of high-intensity football, with virtually no reprieve. While the Super Rugby competition has been dramatically extended, and the demands on each Australian province deepened due to the pressure to remain financially buoyant, every gap in the season is taken up with Test matches. So from February to December, there is hardly time for a player to rest. Instead they must develop into marathon men.

The end result has been a spate of injuries in Wallabyland. There is only so much a flogged body and mind can take.

The Wallabies also know the finish line is still a long way off. They are only at the 30-kilometre mark. After Argentina, the Wallabies play another five Tests this season, and in quick succession. From Rosario they go to Brisbane for the third Bledisloe Cup encounter, and then off to Europe for Tests in Paris, London, Florence and Cardiff.

Only on December 2 will they get a breather. The immediate effect is that due to the high attrition rate, the Wallabies will confront the Pumas with one of the strangest looking Australian attacks in some time. The only members familiar with each other are the halves - Nick Phipps and Kurtley Beale - and the rest have little or no history with each other. There are obvious flaws, and the Pumas are bound to target the newcomers, in particular the effervescent but unpredictable winger Nick Cummins in his first Test. Cummins's effectiveness under the high ball is bound to be tested, and the Pumas will want to quickly discover whether he is up to international standard.

No wonder the locals are excited and the Pumas raging favourites to achieve their first Rugby Championship win.

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Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
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Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
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SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
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CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
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LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
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BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
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RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
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CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
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CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
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Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
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Round 12
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HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 15
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Round 16
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR 56 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
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Stormers 16 10 5 1 50 45
Highlanders 16 11 5 0 117 53
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