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Argentina’s unforgettable rugby tour in Australia comes to an end

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GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) – Argentina’s disappointing trip to Australia ends on Saturday when the Pumas face the Wallabies in their final rugby league game, one that comes two days after six of their players were banned to play because they broke coronavirus protocols.

The Argentines have been away from home for almost four months and are winless in five tournament matches. So it’s obvious that their flight home to South America on Sunday – winning or losing at Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast – can’t come soon enough.

While making five changes to his roster, coach Mario Ledesma preferred not to talk about the six players and two staff who crossed the state border into New South Wales on Wednesday and were barred from returning at their base in Queensland, unaware that border restrictions had been reset earlier. on that day, allowing passage only to essential workers.

Those not playing in Saturday’s game are former captain Pablo Matera, mainstay Santiago Medrano and substitute hooker Santiago Socino of the Pumas squad who lost to Australia 27-8 last weekend. The other players were Felipe Ezcurra, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Sebastian Cancelliere, as well as manager Lucas Chioccarelli and a video analyst.

Governing body SANZAAR said the Pumas and their traveling 44-man squad still have enough men to play the game.

Mainstays Rodrigo Martinez and Enrique Pieretto are starting after being reservists last weekend, and Ledesma has recalled Guido Petti as Matias Alemanno. Rodrigo Bruni, absent with injury last weekend, was No.8 for Matera.

Ledesma said the long tour – including three weeks in South Africa, where the Pumas have lost twice to the Springboks, and nearly six weeks in Australia for the tournament relocated to Queensland state – will only make its mark. stronger players.

“All adversities forge bonds, they also forge character,” said Ledesma. “This team never finds excuses, never takes shortcuts. I am very proud of the commitment of this team, of its determination. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Australian captain Michael Hooper said on Friday he expects Argentina to be galvanized by the incident.

“We were surprised like everyone else, and we don’t know how it’s going to impact their team,” Hooper said of the border violation. “We know there is a bit of going on there, but we expect them to be full of emotion.”

For the Wallabies, Japan-based Sean McMahon could make a much-anticipated comeback after four years and Greg Holmes, 38, according to Rugby Australia, is set to become the oldest Wallabies player to take part in a test. since World War II. . The two were named by coach Dave Rennie to the reserve bench.

McMahon, who is continuing his first action against the Wallabies since 2017, is back after Rugby Australia relaxed its eligibility laws to include overseas-based players. Holmes last performed in 2016 after making his debut in 2005.

Returning to Super Rugby with the Western Force after four years in England, Holmes recently discussed with Rennie the possibility of joining the national team to observe as a coach. But Rennie called instead to offer Holmes a game spot after Pone Fa’amausili was injured and compatriot Allan Alaalatoa was preparing to leave the camp to be with his pregnant wife.

Rennie said Holmes gave the team “more experience and us in the tight-headed role” to counter Argentina as Taniela Tupou’s replacement.

“It’s pretty amazing; I almost feel like it’s my first selection again, ”said Holmes of what could be his farewell match. “When I left (Australian rugby) in 2016, I thought that was it. Hopefully Taniela won’t make it 80 minutes. I know he can. . . but I hope there will be a few minutes for me.

Rennie said the Wallabies cheered when Holmes’ name was announced on Matchday 23.

“He’s such a popular character, but it’s not a sentimental selection, it’s based on what we need,” said Rennie. “He came home and played good soccer.”

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