Australia or Argentina must do something miraculous on Saturday to rip the Tri Nations title from New Zealand's grasp.

With the All Blacks boasting a points differential of plus 64, the Wallabies need a bonus-point win with a margin of at least 101 points.

The task facing the Pumas, who also need a bonus point, is only slightly less daunting as Mario Ledesma's side must outscore their opponents by 93.

With such lofty targets to hit, this weekend's clash in Sydney is more about signing off from the competition in style than any remote prospect of actually winning it.

Nonetheless, these two sides drew in their meeting on matchday four, making it an intriguing fixture even if silverware is not realistically on the line.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown as the 2020 Tri Nations draws to a close.

FORM

Australia are enduring a tough time, with Dave Rennie's side having won only one of their previous six Tests, although that victory was against New Zealand on matchday two.

The Wallabies' record against the Pumas offers scope for encouragement for the hosts, who have lost just one of the teams' past 10 meetings.

Argentina have proven particularly stubborn in the first half of matches, conceding only one try before the break in their four games so far in the Tri Nations.

On the flip side, Ledesma's charges have allowed six second-half tries.

ONES TO WATCH

Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez has the best goal-kicking accuracy in the competition this year, nailing 85.7 per cent of his attempts. His tally of 40 points is the second best return of any player at the tournament.

Tom Wright has proven a formidable force for Australia, gaining 9.9 metres per carry, putting him top in that category of players who have made at least 10 carries.

Pablo Matera has been reinstated as Argentina captain, just two days after being sacked from the post and suspended.

The 27-year-old Matera and two team-mates have had suspensions lifted after the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) decided the sanctions imposed for historic "discriminatory" social media posts had been "unnecessary".

It was announced by the UAR on Tuesday that Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino had all been stood down from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations clash with Australia at Bankwest Stadium.

The trio were found to have posted "discriminatory and xenophobic comments" to their social media channels between 2011 and 2013.

All three were reported to have published apologies on Instagram before setting their profiles to private, while they were summoned to address a disciplinary committee on Wednesday.

Although the UAR says the disciplinary process will continue as it aims to reach a final conclusion, the governing body confirmed Matera has been restored to his previous role and all three players' suspensions have been lifted.

In a statement, the UAR said: "[While addressing the committee] the three players expressed their deep regret, reiterated the apology, ratified that it is not what they think and that it was a reckless act typical of immaturity. However, they take full responsibility and are responsible, for which they made themselves available to the commission to investigate the circumstances and seek to repair the damage caused.

"At the time of preliminary issuance, the disciplinary committee has considered and valued the attitude of the three players during this process, and understands that they have not repeated similar actions during these more than eight years, and that they have shown during this time to be people with firm and upright values, worthy of being part of our team."

It appears the trio will not be involved against Australia, with Argentina coach Mario Ledesma having already named his 23-man squad for the game, leaving out Matera, Petti and Socino.

The UAR statement added: "The disciplinary process continues and the commission will reach a final resolution in the next few days in accordance with the time of the procedure. In this first instance it considers that the maintenance of preventive measures is unnecessary, for which it resolves to lift the suspension of the three players and restore the captaincy of Pablo Matera.

"The Argentine Rugby Union and the squad have different roles and responsibilities but the same objective: to make rugby continue to grow as a sport.

"The path of deep reflection on certain practices associated with our sport, which began at the beginning of the year with the Rugby 2030 programme, we have no doubt that it will take time. And it requires, both on the part of the leadership and the establishment, to give strong signals at the right moment."

West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes the Test team is in a ‘good place’ ahead of the start of the two-match series against New Zealand, which bowls off on Wednesday.

The team’s tour of New Zealand began with a T20 series last week but they did not experience a lot of joy after being easily swept aside 2-0 by the Kiwis in a three-match series.  Simmons, however, does not expect any follow-on negative effect for the four-day team and admits he has been encouraged by their performance in the warm-up games.  The performances with the bat in the warm-up matches will have been particularly encouraging for the team, which saw the batting line-up post scores of 366 and 571.

“The T20 and the Tests are different.  The Test team has done well in Queenstown and enjoyed a tough four-day game.  Now, they are coming into the Test series with some confidence, especially with the batsmen and we haven’t had that in a while,” Simmons told windiescricket.

“I think the Test team is in a good place, I’m disappointed with the T20 team but looking forward to the Test series…I don’t think the results of the T20 will affect how they think,” he added.

The Test series is also expected to be a tough challenge for the regional team who has not won a series in New Zealand since 1995.

 

 

Pablo Matera could face a second round of disciplinary action after Stade Francais said the sacked Argentina captain would be summoned by management when he returns to Paris. 

The 27-year-old was stripped of the Pumas armband and suspended on Tuesday after "discriminatory and xenophobic" social media posts between 2011 and 2013 were discovered. 

The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) also stood down Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations meeting with Australia. 

A disciplinary process has begun, with the UAR stating: "Although the messages were published between 2011 and 2013 and do not represent the personal integrity the three showed during that time with the Pumas, the Argentine Rugby Union condemns any expression of hatred and we consider it unacceptable that those who express them represent our country." 

The revelation about Matera's comments caused dismay at Stade Francais, the French club he joined from Jaguares 12 months ago. 

In a statement on their website, the club said: "Following the revelations by certain media of posts made in 2012 by player Pablo Matera on the social network Twitter, the Stade Francais Paris club wishes to note its total opposition to these unacceptable remarks and comments. 

"We also want to remember that since his arrival at the club in December 2019, our player has always been irreproachable in his attitude towards his team-mates and opponents, both on and off the pitch. 

"On his return from international duty, the player, who has already publicly apologised, will be summoned by club management."

Pablo Matera has been stripped of the Pumas captaincy and suspended over "discriminatory and xenophobic" social media posts between 2011 and 2013, the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) has confirmed.

Guido Petti and Santiago Socino have also been stood down from international duty ahead of Saturday's Tri Nations meeting with Australia at Bankwest Stadium.

Further sanctions could follow for the trio after a disciplinary process was initiated.

A UAR statement read: "The Argentine Rugby Union rejects the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Pumas squad on social networks.

"Meeting urgently, the board of directors resolves in the first place to revoke the captaincy of Pablo Matera and request the staff to propose a new captain to the board of directors.

"Secondly, to suspend Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino from the national team until their disciplinary situation is defined.

"Although the messages were published between 2011 and 2013 and do not represent the personal integrity the three showed during that time with the Pumas, the Argentine Rugby Union condemns any expression of hatred and we consider it unacceptable that those who express them represent our country."

Following the publication of the UAR statement, Matera deactivated his Twitter account.

Matera, Petti and Socino all reportedly published apologies on Instagram before setting their profiles to private.

England saw off Wales 24-13 in a scrappy Llanelli battle as Eddie Jones' men clinched top spot in Group A of the Autumn Nations Cup. 

Tries from Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola plus 14 points from the boot of captain Owen Farrell - who became the sixth man to kick 200 penalties in Test rugby - did the job for the visitors. 

There was little running rugby on view at Parc y Scarlets, where Wales showed dogged resistance at times, an improved showing for coach Wayne Pivac whose team halted a six-game losing streak with a shaky victory over Georgia in their previous outing. 

But England rode out the shock of conceding an early try against the run of play and were comfortable enough winners in the end.

Johnny Williams nudged Wales ahead on 10 minutes, with Dan Biggar kicking a loose ball through and Williams showing good football skills himself before grounding for the first points of the game. Leigh Halfpenny added the conversion. 

Slade got England on the board in the 15th minute, an easy run to the line in the left corner after the visitors moved the ball sharply through hands, but Farrell pulled his kick wide. 

Halfpenny then sent a 45-metre penalty a foot wide of the right post, missing out on points Wales could ill afford to let slip away. 

Farrell booted England into the lead for the first time after Wales flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes was punished for not releasing the ball. 

And England were kicking at almost every opportunity when in possession, but a combination of their erratic work and pressure from the Welsh was keeping it tight. Farrell added a second penalty to edge England into an 11-7 interval lead. 

The Welsh defence was impressing but they were bereft of an attacking threat and at times it looked like a damage-limitation exercise, with Vunipola plunging over from close range near to the posts for the second Red Rose try in the 51st minute. 

Farrell could hardly miss and duly stretched England's lead to 18-7, before a spell of Welsh pressure saw the hosts earn a pair of penalties that Biggar seized on to claim six easy points. 

A third Farrell penalty saw England to an eight-point cushion, after Wales knocked on, and he slotted a fourth in the 72nd minute to make sure. 

It is all to play for in the Tri Nations series as New Zealand look to exact revenge on Argentina in the penultimate round of the tournament on Saturday.

The Pumas made history by securing their first victory over the All Blacks in Sydney a fortnight ago, Nicolas Sanchez scoring all of their points in a famous 25-15 triumph.

Mario Ledesma's side will be desperate to secure a win that would move them above New Zealand into top spot as Argentina mourns the death of Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest ever footballer who passed away on Wednesday aged 60.

New Zealand were licking their wounds last weekend when Argentina held hosts Australia to a 15-15 draw and will be expected to come out firing on all cylinders at McDonald Jones Stadium.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown in Newcastle, where the two sides start level on six points along with the Wallabies, as New Zealand play their final game.

 

FORM

New Zealand have lost their last two Tests, having gone down 24-22 to Australia in the third round. The last time the All Blacks went on a longer losing run was a five-match span from July to August in 1998.

Argentina are undefeated in three Tests, winning two and drawing one – the Pumas have not gone more than three without a loss since a four-match winning streak five years ago.

The Pumas can boast the best tackle success rate (89 per cent) in the Tri Nations and are the only side yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (11/11).

ONES TO WATCH

All Blacks captain Sam Cane has hit more attacking rucks (65) than any other player in 2020 Tri Nations, while prop  Joe Moody will win his 50th cap.

Argentina lock Guido Petti has stolen the most lineouts (3) of any player in the tournament, as many as the entire New Zealand squad combined.

George Ford will start at fly-half when England face Wales in their final Autumn Nations Cup Group A match on Saturday.

Ford made his return from an Achilles injury off the bench in the 18-7 victory over Ireland at Twickenham last weekend, but will take the number 10 shirt at Parc y Scarlets.

Captain Owen Farrell shifts to inside centre, partnering Henry Slade after Ollie Lawrence was omitted from the squad due to a hip injury.

The England side is otherwise unchanged as Eddie Jones' men look to make it three wins out of three and seal top spot.

Luke Cowan-Dickie and Anthony Watson have been named on the bench after recovering injuries, while Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jonny Hill, Dan Robson, Will Stuart and Jack Willis are the other replacements.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns to the Wales starting line-up in Llanelli following the win over Georgia.

Under-fire head coach Wayne Pivac has made eight changes to his side, with Leigh Halfpenny replacing Liam Williams at full-back, Josh Adams starting on the wing and Lloyd Williams and Dan Biggar getting the nod as the half-back pairing.

 

England team: Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Anthony Watson.

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Lloyd Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Webb, Callum Sheedy, Owen Watkin.

Former France internationals Serge Betsen, Vincent Clerc and Dimitri Yachvili have paid tribute to Christophe Dominici following the death of their old team-mate.

Dominici passed away at the age of 48 on Tuesday, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and the player's former club Stade Francais confirmed, with the cause of his death not yet revealed.

Toulon-born Dominici, who played at full-back and on the wing, won 67 caps for his country and scored 25 tries.

Only Clerc (11) has scored more tries for France at a Rugby World Cup than the eight managed by Dominici, who made his debut for Les Bleus against England in 1998.

Clerc, who played 67 times for France, posted on Twitter: "Thank you Domi for everything you brought to French rugby and all these good times spent with you."

Betsen earned many of his 63 caps alongside Dominici, and also tweeted: "Very very touched by this terrible and sad news of my playing brother Christophe Dominici. The inspiration and soul of a warrior. I am very sad."

Dominici won the French title five times during a long, successful club career with capital club Stade, where he was employed as a coach after retiring.

Former France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili wrote: "I'm sad. My heart bleeds. You will forever remain an artist, an endearing and elusive man, a legend of our sport. A thought for your family and loved ones. Rest in peace Domi."

Ex-England star Jonny Wilkinson also offered his condolences.

"The death of Christophe Dominici is terribly sad. We think of all his relatives. The world of sport has lost a true legend," the World Cup winner posted on Twitter.

Wilkinson's former England team-mate Jason Robinson added: "Had the privilege of playing against the France rugby legend Christophe Dominici on many occasions. Such sad news to hear of his passing. Thoughts and prayers with his family and friends. RIP."

Ollie Lawrence will miss England's final Autumn Nations Cup Group A match against Wales due to a hip injury.

Lawrence started in the victories over Georgia and Ireland, but will play no part at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

England defence coach John Mitchell said: "Ollie has a little niggle around his abductor and hip area, nothing major but it is a niggle that is concerning him.

"Ollie has huge potential as a centre. He is very talented in terms of running onto the ball and he has got exceptional ability to line break."

Jonathan Joseph or captain Owen Farrell could move into midfield in the absence of Lawrence as the Six Nations champions look to seal top spot.

Jack Willis has been retained by Eddie Jones in a 25-man squad, while Anthony Watson and Joe Marler will be hoping to make their Test returns.

 

England squad:

Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (captain), George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Max Malins, Jonny May, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Jack Willis.

Former France international Christophe Dominici has died at the age of 48.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) and Dominici's former club Stade Francais confirmed the Bleus great had passed away on Tuesday, with no cause of death revealed.

Versatile back Dominici, who operated on the wing or at full-back, won 67 caps for his country and scored 25 tries.

The Toulon-born Dominici is France's second-highest Rugby World Cup try-scorer with eight, a tally only Vincent Clerc has bettered.

The FFR tweeted: "The great French rugby family is in mourning after the tragic death of our winger Christophe Dominici, we are thinking especially of his family and loved ones."

Dominici won the French title five times during a long, successful club career with capital club Stade, where he employed as a coach after retiring.

The Top 14 club posted on Twitter: "It is with immense sadness and heartbreak that Stade Français Paris learned of the death of Christophe Dominici.

"Rugby genius and peerless companion, he leaves a great void in our big family. Our thoughts are with his partner and his daughters."

Governing body World Rugby also paid tribute to Dominici.

"A legend of @FranceRugby and an all-time great of the game. Rest In Peace, Christophe Dominici," the organisation posted on social media.

Wales back-row Ross Moriarty will miss the remainder of the Autumn Nations Cup due to an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion did the damage in training ahead of struggling Wales' encounter with Group A leaders England at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

Moriarty has also been ruled out of Wales' last match of the tournament the following weekend, when Wayne Pivac's side will face yet to be decided opponents from Group B.

Under pressure head coach Pivac will be hoping Justin Tipuric is given the green light to face the Six Nations champions.

Loose forward Tipuric was struck in the face by Beka Saginadze's swinging arm in Wales' 18-0 win over Georgia last weekend and is undergoing concussion protocols.

England are top of the group, five points clear of Wales and Ireland, with Georgia bottom.

Anthony Watson and Luke Cowan-Dickie have returned to the England squad for the Autumn Nations Cup clash with Wales on Saturday after recovering from injury. 

Bath back Watson sustained an ankle injury in the Six Nations win over Italy last month, while Exeter Chiefs hooker Cowan-Dickie is back to full fitness after undergoing knee surgery. 

Wasps fly-half Jacob Umaga and Northampton full-back George Furbank, meanwhile, have withdrawn from the 35-man squad due to injury.

Eddie Jones' side beat Ireland 18-7 on Sunday and another victory in Llanelli on Saturday will see them compete against the winners of Group B on December 6 to decide who lifts the trophy.

 

England squad:

Backs: Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (captain), George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Jonny May, Alex Mitchell, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Ollie Thorley, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Beno Obano, David Ribbans, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams, Jack Willis.

Jonny May scored a sublime solo try as England beat Ireland 18-7 at Twickenham to extend their winning run to six matches and take charge of Autumn Nations Cup A.

The clinical May finished superbly to open the scoring and had a first-half double when he sprinted from deep inside his own half to score a sensational try four minutes later 

Wing May moved level with Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood on 31 tries for England, a tally only Rory Underwood has bettered, as the Six Nations champions secured a fourth win in a row against Ireland.

Jacob Stockdale got Ireland on the board with a late try but they were frustrated by a defensive masterclass from Eddie Jones' side.

Owen Farrell scored eight points from the tee and laid on May's first try as England put themselves on course to win the group ahead of a clash with Wales next weekend.

May rose to brilliantly take a high cross-field kick from Farrell before spinning and planting the ball down to put England in front 16 minutes after the forwards applied huge pressure on Ireland.

Lethal flyer May then punished Ireland for a poor lineout by showing searing pace and great footwork to score a magnificent try that he created for himself from inside him own 22, with Farrell adding the extras.

Ireland continued to struggle at the set-piece and although they prevented the Red Rose from increasing their lead before the break, but two Farrell penalties stretched the advantage to 18 points.

England defended for their lives and looked set to nil Andy Farrell's side until Stockdale surged through to take his own clever kick over the top and score a try, which Billy Burns converted, seven minutes from time but it was too little, too late.

Reece Hodge felt he "let the country down" after missing a late penalty in Australia's 15-15 draw with Argentina in the Tri Nations. 

The Wallabies fly-half had the match on his boot as he lined up the 78th-minute kick that would almost certainly have been a match-winner. 

He sent the ball wide of the right upright, however, and despite kicking five from five chances before that, it was the sixth that weighed heavy. 

"I feel like I’ve let the country down," Hodge said on Fox Sports. "It’s a pretty tough one to take at the moment. 

"Obviously we were up 15-6 and had our chances to seal that game. I guess inaccuracy and poor game management from our game managers let us down. 

"Especially in that first half we created a lot of opportunities, it's just inaccuracy in the last passes and movements that let us down. 

"It was 9-6 at half-time, but with the weight of possession we had it should have been 15 or 20 and it's a credit to the way that Argentina defended also."

Australia captain Michael Hooper suggested his team lost their discipline and paid a heavy price. 

In a gruelling match, five penalties apiece from Hodge and Nicolas Sanchez produced the scoring, with Australia having two first-half tries chalked off by the television match official. 

Armed with a 15-6 lead by the hour mark, Australia looked set to see the job through at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, only to cough up the chances that allowed Sanchez to boot Argentina back onto level terms. 

Hooper said: "We tried to play with a lot of territory - I think we won that - we were just unable to convert there in the second half, and probably ill-discipline. Sanchez made us hurt. 

"We felt good, we were playing our shape. They turned the ball over a couple of times, we had some loose passes, some knock-ons there, so we need to be more accurate." 

Hooper explained it would take a while for Australia to get their heads around the match. 

"The mind is still going 100 miles per hour so we'll debrief and catch our breath and look at it properly," Hooper said. 

Asked if the early intention had been to get the ball wide, Hooper said: "You can't just go straight to edge. 

"We tried to punch it through them, they did well to slow the ball up, they hold you up high, slow you up, then they get men in a defensive line. 

"We put some smart kicks in behind but were unable to crack it tonight." 

Argentina skipper Pablo Matera felt his team got their reward for sticking to their defensive strengths, recovering well from having Julian Montoya sin-binned early in the second half. 

A week on from their jaw-dropping victory over New Zealand, the Pumas could not quite hit those heights but showed they are a force to be reckoned with once again. 

"We trust in ourselves. We trust in our system," Matera said. 

"We were nine points behind but we still did our system because we trust it. It was not our best performance but a good effort from all the team." 

He said the game was "really physical, really brutal", adding: "Australia play a great game, they put us under a lot of pressure. 

"We defended really well. We didn't have a lot of chances to score tries but we were very disciplined."

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