Argentina can win by 2014 - Topo Rodriguez

BEN HORNE
Last updated 13:10 12/09/2012
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe
Chris Skelton/Fairfax NZ
BIG IMPROVERS: Argentina No 8 Juan Martin Fernandez in action.

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Former Argentina and Australia international Topo Rodriguez predicts the Pumas can win the Rugby Championship by 2014.

In their debut campaign against southern hemisphere heavyweights New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, Argentina are exceeding all expectations heading into Saturday's clash with the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.

Already they've drawn with the Springboks and pushed the All Blacks for three quarters of a match in Wellington, and Rodriguez believes the Pumas are capable of claiming the Wallabies' scalp before the tournament is through.

Rodriguez says the Pumas, ranked eighth in the world, will learn from this year and be a genuine force from next season against rugby's three highest-ranked teams.

"I think realistically speaking this year, they could finish third but next year they will have this experience and I think they will really give it a good crack," Rodriguez told AAP.

"If we want to be a bit more conservative, then 2014 Argentina will win it. But I think they will be ready next year for everything."

The former tighthead prop played 13 Tests for his country of birth Argentina, before moving to Australia and representing the Wallabies on 26 occasions between 1984-87.

If Argentina can maintain their strong presence up front and defend strongly, Rodriguez senses Australia are vulnerable if not at Skilled Park then in Rosario on October 6.

"Put it this way, I wouldn't put my money or my house on the Wallabies as they've been quite inconsistent," said Rodriguez, who bases himself in Australia.

"Their form in the last two years, they haven't played three or four games at hard level. They play one and then drop off a bit I would say (Argentina) could leave here with a few points and finishing it off in Rosario is a good possibility."

The 60-year-old recently released a book called The Art of Scrummaging, a history, manual and law dissertation on the rugby scrum - featuring contributions from some of the game's great coaches.

Despite consecutive losses to New Zealand and a less than convincing victory over the Springboks, Australia's scrum has been praised this Championship under the new direction of forwards coach Andrew Blades.

An expert and tenacious scrummager in his day, Rodriguez said he still wants to see consistency from the Wallabies forwards before they can consider themselves on par with the best scrimmaging teams in the world.

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"Obviously Andrew Blades is doing a good job, he's keeping them focused and honest. Still consistency is the common denominator," he said.

"You don't become a lawyer with passing only one exam I would like to see them playing at that level for the whole Championship."

Graham Henry has been working with Argentina as a consultant, and Rodriguez said it was clear the mentorship of the All Blacks 2011 World Cup winning coach was assisting the Pumas.

"He's like a father figure coordinating and overseeing their work that puts you at peace and you play an extra 20 per cent," he said.

- AAP

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