Rugby | Wallabies want historic first final against All Blacks

Michael Cheika (Gallo)

London – Two-time champions Australia take on Argentina in the second World Cup semi-final on Sunday aiming for a historic first final against old rivals New Zealand.

The tantalizing finale took one step closer on Saturday when the All Blacks beat South Africa 20-18 in their semi-final.

Australia, a resurgent power since Michael Cheika became coach one year ago, must first beat the Pumas, the surprise package of this World Cup.

Australia start the Twickenham match as favourites. Cheika has brought back star full back Israel Folau and No 8 David Pocock after they missed the quarter-final win over Scotland through injury.

The Wallabies have won 18 of the 24 games between the two countries, Argentina just five.

But Argentina could pose a serious threat if they repeat their stunning match against Six Nations champions Ireland which they won 43-20.

There free-flowing attacking rugby has earned widespread praise at the World Cup. A Puma success would also be historic as Argentina have never appeared in a final.

Cheika, who has transformed the demoralised Wallabies in the past year, does not believe past results mean anything in Sunday’s game.

“It’s all about what you bring to that game,” said Cheika.

“I don’t think that past form or what’s happened in this tournament or anything is relevant except for the two teams and what they bring over 80 minutes tomorrow and what they show from the inside of their soul around how they want to play the game.

Argentina have a drastically different team to the one chased off the park by eventual champions South Africa in their previous semi-final appearance in 2007.

Argentina now play in the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship and a Buenos Aires club will start in the Super Rugby tournament from next year.

European based Juan Imhoff has scored some brilliant tries, while 2007 veterans centre Juan Martin Hernandez and flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe bring wise heads to the team.

The impressive No 8 Leonardo Senatore is looking forward to the battle with one of Australia’s Pocock, recovered from a calf injury, Michael Hooper and the unsung hero of the trio Scott Fardy.

“We can beat them, that is my thought before every match,” said Senatore.

“We know they will be tough and we will try to put them in a bad place and try to win that battle in every breakdown and every carry.

“It is going to be one of the key elements of the game.”

Australia have never met Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in a World final though they got the better of them memorably in the 2003 semi-final on home soil.

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