Michael Cheika says Pumas want to inspire a nation in Rugby World Cup semi-final

Argentina's Australian head coach Michael Cheika and hooker Julian Montoya attend a press conference at the Roland Garros stadium in Boulogne Billancourt on Wednesday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Argentina's Australian head coach Michael Cheika and hooker Julian Montoya attend a press conference at the Roland Garros stadium in Boulogne Billancourt on Wednesday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Published Oct 18, 2023


Argentina head coach Michael Cheika said he and his players want to "have no regrets" once the final whistle goes on their Rugby World Cup semi-final with New Zealand on Friday.

The 56-year-old Australian guided Australia to the 2015 final with victory over Argentina in the semi-finals and now his task is to get the Pumas past the three-time champions.

Cheika said that team evidently wanted to inspire the country but even in defeat they could do so in the manner they carried themselves.

"It's not easy," he said at the press conference following the naming of the team on Wednesday.

"We want to inspire not just by our results but by our ambition, by our ability to get back up and overcome obstacles.

"To inspire is not about results, no, it's about our behaviour in general, our ability to be ready to come back from difficult times and seizing our opportunities.

"There are not a lot of opportunities in life -- us playing in a semi-final is even rarer and we want to have no regrets."

Cheika has handed a 50th cap to Facundo Isa for the semi-final.

The 30-year-old No 8 is one of seven players in the matchday 23 to have played in the Pumas 2015 World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia.

Head coach Michael Cheika, who was in charge of Australia when they beat the Pumas in 2015, has made just the one change to the starting XV from the one that surprised Wales in the quarter-finals.

The 56-year-old has selected Gonzalo Bertranou at scrum-half at the expense of Tomas Cubelli, who drops out of the 23 altogether.

Bertranou is one of six players in the 23 who featured in both of Argentina's wins over New Zealand since the 2019 World Cup, in 2020 and 2022.

Cheika said there was no designated recipe for success against the All Blacks.

"You have to take the moments you are in the game and see them coming at you at different times," said Cheika.

"In the game in 2020 there were things you could pinpoint. You can't say that one game means we can do it as there are a lot of games where we haven't.

"That moment has to be just a part of it.

"What we have done since then, all the success and failures.

"The other team are heavy favourites, everyone is expecting a New Zealand and South Africa final."

Argentina's captain in 2015, hooker Agustin Creevy at 38 years and 219 days, will become the oldest player to appear in a World Cup semi-final if he comes on.

He will surpass South Africa's Victor Matfield who was 38 years and 166 days against the All Blacks in 2015.

Cheika's team will start as underdogs against an All Blacks side that posted a hugely impressive performance in beating Ireland 28-24 last Saturday.

Pumas captain Juan Montoya, though, said he and his teammates had defied the critics who had written them off early in the tournament, primarily when they produced a limp performance in losing to 14-man England in their opening pool match.

"It was difficult but we always kept faith and we know the work we have been doing," he said.

"Internally we knew we were ready, we needed to work on some details.

"This is how we face these difficult moments.

"We can face problems at any point but our confidence in our players and staff (made us believe we'd get better)."

Team (15-1)

Juan Cruz Mallia; Emiliano Boffelli, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez; Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti; Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya (capt), Thomas Gallo

Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Nicolas Sanchez, Matias Moroni