Underdogs Argentina on Sunday made Richie McCaw’s defending champions New Zealand fight for victory in their opening Rugby World Cup match as Wales suffered critical new injury blows.
All Blacks skipper McCaw was sin-binned and the team had to come back from behind to beat Argentina 26-16 in front of a Rugby World Cup record crowd of 89,019 at Wembley Stadium.
Wales, in the same tough Pool A as England and Australia, hammered Uruguay 54-9. However, hat-trick scorer Cory Allen is likely to miss the rest of the Rugby World Cup as he joined a growing Wales casualty list.
Aaron Smith and replacement Sam Cane came to New Zealand’s rescue after they trailed Argentina for much of the Pool C game.
McCaw was given a yellow card for tripping Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. It was only on his return and the introduction of Sonny Bill Williams and Cane as substitutes that New Zealand awoke from their slumber.
The Pumas led 16-12 when New Zealand’s Aaron Smith crashed over for a key try. Cane made the game safe in the 67th minute. Dan Carter kicked four penalties and two conversions.
“I guess that’s what you expect first up. I thought that second half was a lot more clinical,” McCaw said of the win.
Allen scored three first-half tries for Wales, ranked fifth in the world, against the largely amateur Uruguay.
However, Wales were also slow to break down the South American side and Allen limped off in the second half.
“It looks like he’ll definitely need to be replaced,” said coach Warren Gatland, who lost star fullback Leigh Halfpenny and first-choice backs Rhys Webb and Jonathan Davies before the tournament started.
Fullback Liam Williams, the replacement for Halfpenny, also went off injured.
Tighthead prop Samson Lee, making his comeback from a ruptured Achilles tendon, was replaced at halftime and loosehead Paul James after just 32 minutes.
Gatland denied his tough training regime had caused the spike in injuries.
“I don’t think you can blame the preparation,” he said, citing “bad luck” for the squad’s ills.
Wales are in the so-called “Pool of Death” with England and Australia — and only two teams from each of the four groups go through to the quarter-finals.
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