England target Pumas clean sweep
England stand-in forwards coach Rob Baxter says getting on top in the contact area will be crucial in Saturday’s Test against the Pumas in Salta.
Rob Baxter wants England’s forwards to assert themselves on the forthcoming Tests against Argentina and is adamant that a relatively inexperienced pack will learn a great deal from the “furnace” of international rugby.
Placing as much stock on aggression and physicality as technical nous, the Exeter Chiefs boss is also certain that getting on top in the contact area will be crucial during Saturday’s series-opening match in Salta.
And having watched his charges secure a comprehensive, if slightly underwhelming 41-21 win in Montevideo on Sunday, stand-in forwards coach Baxter has set an inflexible target of twin victories over the Pumas to cap off his England secondment.
“We are expected to go for four wins,” he said. “This is a quality set of players, albeit it relatively internationally inexperienced.
“These are four fantastic games and all I’ve said to the guys is that they’ve got to stand up and take their opportunities within the game. If they hide and just try to get through an international, they won’t develop as a player.
“For me, it’s about encouraging them to take charge - making sure they are vocal, they communicate and want to be in the thick of the action. By doing that, they’ll become better players.
“These guys have to be better players at the end of this tour than they are now. They have to be more comfortable in the international environment so Stuart [Lancaster] is more comfortable picking them.
“They can prove they should be number one when the senior internationals and Lions return. That’s their challenge, which is what make tours such fantastic opportunities.”
With the majority of Santiago Phelan’s bigger names rested ahead of the arduous Rugby Championship, Argentina represent something of an unknown quantity to the tourists.
However, Baxter suggested the traditionally abrasive nature of South American sides would offer a decent template to go forward with.
He added: “It’s difficult to do any analysis on them as a pack of forwards, but we’ll get some on them as individuals, so that will some insight into what they are doing.
“We know they are going to come after us at scrum time, that they are dangerous around the breakdown and committed in the tackle area. For us, the focus is on how we work together as a pack of eight in the set-piece and get our driving game going.
“It’s [also important] that we are kind of brutal in the contact area. You can talk about the nuances of the technical skills but sometimes it is a head-to-head contest and the guy who hits in there the hardest will win.
“We’re expecting our motivation to outweigh theirs of playing at home. These two Test matches will accelerate the learning of these young players fantastically.”
Expanding on how much youngsters such as Matt Kvesic and Billy Vunipola can garner from being exposed to these tough tussles, Baxter ended with a neat image.
“They almost couldn’t get thrown into a better environment. It’s like chucking some steel into a furnace - it’ll come out harder on the other side.
“It’s not very pleasant in the middle, but it comes out harder - that’s what we are expecting to happen with this group of players.”