Warren Gatland says it would be “a huge achievement” if Wales reach their third Rugby World Cup semi-final in the last four tournaments by beating Argentina on Saturday.

Gatland’s team face the Pumas in Marseille after dominating a pool that some thought they might not qualify from following a dismal Six Nations campaign last season.

Four successive wins and 19 points collected saw them leave sides like Fiji and Australia in their slipstream to set up the Pumas clash at Stade Velodrome.

“It would be our third semi-final, and then in 2015 we were leading South Africa for 75 minutes (in the quarter-finals) and conceded at the end,” Gatland said. “Reflecting on that, we would be pretty proud.

“I have always spoken about how much I have enjoyed the World Cup preparations.

“It is the only time you get to feel like you are a club side in getting that detail done. You feel like you have made a huge amount of progress.

“After all the challenges during the Six Nations, with the potential (player) strike and the contracts and the money with the Union (Welsh Rugby Union) and regions, as coaches we would joke about what would happen next, what would be the next thing thrown at us?.

“I definitely think there has been a line in the sand drawn under that. If we can make the semi-final it would be a huge achievement for this group of players and coaches, who have done a great job, and the back-room staff have been outstanding.

“I know there are some people and some teams out there who won’t want to face a Wales team when they start playing with confidence and when we start having momentum.

“That is when we are at our most dangerous. We are starting to look that way at the moment.”

Wales have not met Argentina in the World Cup for 24 years, but their recent form against them is impressive, having lost just two of the last 11 Tests.

And while Wales sailed through their group, Argentina lost to 14-man England, unconvincingly beat Samoa and then defeated Japan in what was a quarter-final eliminator.

Gatland added: “We are expecting them to come really hard at us. I don’t think anything changes, and the players are well aware of that.

“We talk about being on the edge mentally and you can’t be there at the top of that every single week, so it is how close you can get to it.

“We’ve had a couple of games already where we feel we have been really on the edge in a positive way, and a couple of games where we have been off two or three per cent, so it is how close you can get to that 100 per cent mental peak.

“I am expecting that will be right up there from that physical challenge that will come at us.”

Wales show one change from the side that beat Fiji and Australia, with Tommy Reffell called up to the back-row and Aaron Wainwright switching from blindside flanker to number eight instead of broken arm victim Taulupe Faletau.

Centre George North, meanwhile, will become the first Wales player to feature in four World Cup quarter-finals.

“It is an unbelievable achievement, especially when you realise it after how much hard work all of the boys in every team have to do for a World Cup – it is years in the undertaking,” North’s midfield partner, Nick Tompkins, said.

“So, for him to do it four times is pretty impressive. I am not sure I would be able to do that.

“It speaks volumes for the determination and kind of bloke he is. He is on the best form he has been on for a long, long time.”

Wales will target a third Rugby World Cup semi-final appearance in the last four tournaments when they tackle Argentina on Saturday.

The quarter-final clash in Marseille comes after Wales collected 19 points from a possible 20 to dominate the pool.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into the game.

Wales in the driving seat

It would have been fanciful seven months ago to identify Wales as possible World Cup semi-finalists, given a miserable Six Nations campaign that saw them win one game.

Head coach Warren Gatland has turned things around, though, masterminding an unbeaten group phase that produced key victories over Fiji and Australia.

In contrast, Argentina found it tough going, losing to 14-man England before posting an unimpressive win against Samoa and then qualifying as Pool D runners-up.

It is a first World Cup meeting between Wales and the Pumas since 1999, with Gatland’s team firm favourites.

Faletau loss a huge blow

Wales’ victory over Georgia last weekend was clouded by number eight Taulupe Faletau suffering a broken arm that ruled him out of the tournament.

With 104 caps to his name and a consistent ability to hit world-class standards, his absence cannot be sugar-coated, even if Wales have enviable back-row strength.

Big players produce big performances in big games, and few Wales players have delivered such quality so regularly than Faletau during his 12-year Test career.

The shows goes on, but one of its star performers has left the stage.

Form and history favours Wales

Former Wales flanker Richard Webster once said that rugby is a sport played on grass, not paper, but form and history strongly supports a Wales victory on Saturday.

Four successive wins since losing their final World Cup warm-up match to South Africa represents a longest unbeaten run for more than two years, while Gatland has a 100 per cent record as Wales boss against the Pumas of played six, won six.

Argentina have beaten Wales only twice in the last 11 meetings, and their World Cup performances so far do not suggest an immediate turnaround in fortunes.

Biggar to boss the show?

Biggar is back at fly-half after recovering from a pectoral muscle injury suffered against Australia almost three weeks ago, with his leadership and game-management vital to Wales successfully negotiating their quarter-final hurdle.

The 33-year-old, who has won 111 caps, will retire from international rugby after the World Cup, and he is likely to be front and centre in Marseille as Wales target a triumph that would take them on the road to Paris for the tournament’s final fortnight.

His influence cannot be understated.

Jac Morgan – captain marvel

While Wales’ cap centurions like Biggar, Faletau and George North – who makes a Welsh record fourth World Cup quarter-final appearance – have all made their presence felt in France, the relatively inexperienced Morgan has also operated at an impressive level on a consistent basis.

Squad co-captain with hooker Dewi Lake, 23-year-old Morgan led Wales superbly in key pool-stage victories over Fiji and Australia, while his performances warranted the rave reviews they received.

There is a calm, quiet authority about the Ospreys flanker, who revels in Test rugby’s unforgiving and unrelenting environment.

Wales were left to count the cost of their Rugby World Cup victory over Georgia after number eight Taulupe Faletau suffered a broken arm and two other players were also injured.

Faletau, who has won more than 100 caps, will take no further part in the tournament as Wales build towards a quarter-final against probably Argentina or Japan in Marseille next weekend.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said no decision had yet been made on a replacement for Faletau, although flanker Aaron Wainwright is an option to move across the back-row.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe, meanwhile, withdrew 45 minutes before kick-off in Nantes following a groin problem suffered during the warm-up.

And full-back Liam Williams was on crutches after Gatland said he took a blow to his knee, but Wales are hopeful he will be fit for the quarter-final, with Wales ending their Pool C campaign as group winners with four successive victories following a 43-19 triumph.

“Toby (Faletau) has broken his arm so he will be out,” Gatland said.

“We are just going to assess Gareth over the next 72 hours. He has pulled his groin very high up.

“Talking to the medics, he has got a bit of power still in his leg which is a positive. It means he has not pulled it off the bone.

“We will probably know in the next 48-72 hours what we need to do with him. Whether we’ve got (time) for him to recover or replace him directly.

“We have got to look at a replacement for Faletau, whether that is directly as a loose-forward replacement or whether we look at another position.

“We’ve got a few sore players, particularly in the backs, after today’s game.

“If you do see Liam Williams on crutches, it is not that he has done anything significantly bad.

“He got a whack on the knee, and the medics, from a comfort perspective, have put him on crutches to save him walking around a bit.

“He has got a knock and probably won’t take a huge part in training in the early part of next week, but hopefully he will be fit for the quarter-final.”

Wales are confident Taulupe Faletau will recover from injury in time for the World Cup, even though the 100-times capped back-rower may not play before the tournament.

Faletau stayed at home to nurse a calf complaint as Warren Gatland’s squad headed for a pre-World Cup training camp in Turkey.

The Cardiff number eight reached a century of caps against France in March and remains a vital component of the Wales side at the age of 32.

But the British and Irish Lion may not be risked ahead of September’s World Cup in France in two warm-up games with England and one against South Africa next month.

“He’s coming back, and in his rehab programme he’s going really well,” said Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys, speaking from the squad’s current base in Antalya.

“So it’s just a question of do you drag him out here to do some stuff, or can he do it back home and spend a lot more time with his family?

“The decision was made that he can do the same rehab process back home. It’s looking positive for him.”

Asked if playing no part in the August games would deny Faletau – who missed the 2019 World Cup in Japan through injury – a place in the squad, Humphreys said: “If he doesn’t feature it’s not going to necessarily rule him out.

“I’m not sure if he will play (in the warm-up games). Hopefully he will, but I don’t think it’s something we’ll massively push if he’s not 100 per cent.

“The rehab is going well so we’re very hopeful he will be available for World Cup selection.”

The uncapped Taine Plumtree has emerged as a World Cup back-row option after confirming his move from New Zealand to Wales.

Plumtree, the 23-year-old son of former All Blacks assistant coach John, was born in Swansea when his father was working in Wales and the New Zealand Under-20 international will play for the Scarlets next season.

“He’s a genuine contender and hopefully we’ll see him in these next three games,” Humphreys said.

“We haven’t brought him in just to gain experience. We’ve brought him in because we feel he can add something to us.

“He’s a six, he’s a big man, and he’s very athletic as you’d expect from someone coming from New Zealand. He’s got a very good rugby sense.

“We are not blessed with people of that stature in that position. We looked at him, we liked what we saw, and he was keen to come over.

“He came off the plane jet-lagged from New Zealand, came to Switzerland, and the training was brutal over there. His first couple of sessions was an eye-opener but we’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen. ”

Temperatures have exceeded over 40 degrees Celsius since Wales arrived in southern Turkey.

They will spend a few more days there before returning home to prepare for their first World Cup warm-up game against England in Cardiff on August 5.

Humphreys said: “It was really hot when we first got here and a lot of humidity.

“Then we saw the temperature was dropping but the humidity went up. I’m not sure which one I prefer.

“It’s incredibly tough training in over 40 degrees but it’s exactly why we came here.

“The World Cup starts in six weeks and it’s an opportunity for players here to put their hands up and for us to find a way forward.”

Wales must trim their current 48-man squad down to 33 for the World Cup, with their opening game against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

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