WALES v ARGENTINA (Today, KO 2.30)
WALES head into today’s clash with Argentina without two vital cogs in their defensive machine – but coach Shaun Edwards has faith in their deputies.
Newport Gwent Dragons blindside flanker Dan Lydiate’s destructive tackling earned him the honour of Six Nations player of the tournament last season.
But outside centre Jonathan Davies was just as important in protecting the Wales line, the Scarlets man operating as a defensive captain and keeping the side organised.
They clearly did their job – Wales conceded 58 points, had their line crossed just three times and enjoyed a trio of clean sheets.
However, Lydiate and Davies will watch the clash with the Pumas from the sidelines because of injury with Josh Turnbull and Scott Williams wearing 6 and 13 respectively.
Edwards admits that injuries will affect Wales’ bid to be watertight but has confidence in the stand-ins.
“I have to try and get Scott up to pace and it’s not something that can be done immediately,” said the defence guru from Wigan.
“Jonathan Davies has made huge strides defensively over the last two or three years. I have to try and do the same job with Scott.
“At six Dan is one of the premier defensive players in world rugby but Josh is a very fit young man and you have to be in incredible condition to do what we ask Lyds to do, to chop those players down and do a vast amount of tackling.
“I feel that Josh has the fitness levels to do that, now he just has to apply himself mentally and keep his discipline.
“If he does that then I have confidence he can slowly get to the level Dan Lydiate is at.”
The defensive task is a formidable one against an Argentina side that boasts plenty of bulk.
The Pumas have a quality tight five and world class back row forwards in Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
“You certainly have to stop their power game, they are very big and athletic men,” admitted Edwards.
“We have to stop their go-forward in the tight and have made slight adjustments to our defence to try and do that.”
And Edwards feels Wales’ bid is boosted by their best preparation for an autumn series courtesy of their training camp in Poland, a trip that served them well before the World Cup and last season’s Six Nations.
“I feel better prepared than ever before, even with the injuries (to Lydiate, Davies, Adam Jones and Ryan Jones),” he said.
“The team’s understanding of what the coaches want from them is higher now.
“We have been quite hurried before because we have sometimes only had a week together but that time in Poland will hopefully be vital today.”