By Peter Rutherford
KOBE (Reuters) – Intensity and bravery can only take the lower-tier nations so far against rugby’s elite sides and the key to running them close is to turn pressure into points, Tonga forwards coach Grant Doorey said on Friday.
The Pacific Islanders gave a good account of themselves in a 35-3 defeat to England in their World Cup Pool C opener on Sunday but were disappointed not to make more of their opportunities at the Sapporo Dome.
They will get another chance to test themselves against a top-tier nation on Saturday when they face Argentina at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka and while Tonga have identified weaknesses in the South Americans’ game, exploiting them is a different story.
“When you look at an opposition you always see weaknesses,” the Australian said. “We’ve got to be good enough to execute in those important moments.
“To put those tier-one nations under pressure, it’s OK to be in the fight, to be courageous, and put lots of defensive pressure on them for periods of time, but when you have the ball in the opposition’s 22, you’ve got to be able to turn that pressure into points.”
Like Tonga, Argentina also lost their World Cup opener, going down 23-21 to France in Tokyo after fighting back from a 20-3 deficit at halftime.
Despite some pundits suggesting the defeat would knock the stuffing out of the Pumas and boost Tonga’s chances of a shock win, Doorey said Argentina, semi-finalists at the last World Cup, would still provide formidable opposition.
“I’m not sure if there’s any good time to play Argentina,” he added. “They’re a quality tier-one nation with lots of experience in their team. We’re just grateful to be here and play against a very strong team.”
Argentine scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli said the first few days after the French defeat were tough.
“We started out hurting because we failed to get the result we were after and into which we had put so much work,” he said on Friday.
“But that’s the logical nature of the game, where you have some weeks easier than others. I think this made us stronger.”
The Pumas had left no stone unturned when it came to preparing for Tonga, he added.
“We have analysed them through-and-through and not only are they physical, heavy and strong but they bring a lot of work to the pitch. They are tidy and they know how to play,” he said.
“What better challenge than to beat a rival who can play well?”
(Editing by Toby Davis)