Marcos Ayerza: Argentina can compete with best at Rugby World Cup
Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza believes the Pumas will present a test for anyone at the World Cup if they build on the form which blew away pool rivals Georgia.
The Pumas thrashed Georgia 54-9 in Gloucester on Friday to boost their hopes of finishing runners-up to New Zealand in Pool C and setting up a probable quarter-final date with France or Ireland.
Georgia had been cast in the role of dangerous underdogs after beating Tonga in their opening game, but Argentina's seven-try showing was further evidence of the progress the South Americans have made in the past year.
Argentina won in France last November and beat South Africa for the first time in the Rugby Championship last month when they produced a stunning 37-25 away victory in Durban.
"We feel on our day playing at our best that we can be a very competitive side," Ayerza said after the Pumas had backed up an impressive opening performance against the All Blacks in losing 26-16 to the world champions.
"We have shown ourselves against France away and South Africa away, those were were big confidence boosts.
"It was the same against Georgia and we have to keep on building, but we have confidence in our system and strength to go from here to test anyone."
Argentina's final two pool games are against Tonga and Namibia in Leicester, the city where Ayerza has plied his trade at club level in the Aviva Premiership since 2006, and the Pumas will be expected to secure a quarter-final spot.
"You do keep an eye on the other pools but first you have to come out of the pool stages," Ayerza said.
"We now have Tonga who are a big side, very powerful all over the park, and then Namibia who surprised the All Blacks by getting a try against them.
"We have to come out of our pool stages but then it's knock-out rugby and everything to play for."
It does not get any easier for Georgia, whose next challenge is trying to slow the All Blacks juggernaut in Cardiff on Friday.
But their Kiwi coach Milton Haig believes he will have no difficulty getting his players primed for that Millennium Stadium clash.
"We've got the world champions next and it won't take a lot to motivate the boys because everyone's career ambition is to play against the All Blacks," Haig said.
"We know we let ourselves down in the second half against Argentina, but our goal is to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup and we're still on target for that.
"We have to win two games in our pool and we can still do that."