Preview: Argentina v England

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:53
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INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: England skipper and hooker Dylan Hartley has hailed the young "terriers" in a severely depleted squad ahead of the first Test against Argentina in San Juan Saturday.

Two uncapped teenagers - run-on flanker Tom Curry and replacement lock Nick Isiekwe - have been included in the matchday 23 by Australia-born coach Eddie Jones.

British and Irish Lions call-ups for the tour of New Zealand have robbed the Red Roses of 16 players and a total of 30 were unavailable for the two-Test series.

But Hartley, overlooked by the Lions while understudy Jamie George was chosen, has scoffed at the "C stringers" tag attached to the team by some pundits.

"The young guys have brought a lot of energy to training and I have been thoroughly impressed by what I have seen since our tour preparations began," he said.

"These youngsters are running the show and, as you would expect, the intensity has been ultra competitive.

"They are hungry, keen to perform and know what is expected of them. They want to stake claims for regular positions in the squad," said the 31-year-old New Zealand-born forward.

Hartley dismissed the belief that Argentina will be a pushovers after woeful recent form by many of their national stars for the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

The Buenos Aires-based franchise - the national team in all but name - began the season with four wins in five matches, but have lost six of the last seven.

Recent defeats by Australian visitors Western Force and Brumbies would have been particularly worrying for Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade as the traditional Argentine fire was missing.

Apart from error-riddled performances and erratic place-kicking, injuries have hampered the Jaguares with star half-backs Nicolas Sanchez (fly) and Martin Landajo (scrum) among the absentees.

Injuries to Argentine rugby icon Juan Martin Hernandez, who can operate at centre or fly-half, also had a disruptive effect on the side.

However, Argentine rugby analyst Frankie Deges says injuries cannot mask all the weaknesses that could spill over from the Jaguares to the Pumas.

"The lack of cohesion and fighting spirit in recent matches means urgent intervention is needed by the national coach [Daniel Hourcade]," he wrote.

"The season is in free fall and the coach has only the Jaguares to choose from.

"[Let us hope] it is not just a case of changing the orange or black colours of the Jaguares for the blue and white of the Pumas."

Pumas skipper Agustin Creevy, like Hartley a hooker, does not believe poor Super Rugby form will necessarily translate into sub-standard Test performances.

"There is a positive attitude within the camp and we came close to winning in England last November," he said, referring to a 27-14 loss at Twickenham.

"We are aware of the many shortcomings in recent Super Rugby matches and have worked extremely hard in training to fix them.

"England are going to be very difficult opponents despite the absence of so many first choices.

"We must get used to their style of play as we face them again this November in London and at the 2019 World Cup in Japan."

Jones does not accept that a string of Super Rugby setbacks makes Argentina vulnerable at the 25,000-seat Estadio Bicentenario near the border with Chile.

"We know Argentina are a very good side having played them earlier this season and they will be desperate to win against us," he said.

Players to watch:

For Argentina:Given that it is effective their Super Rugby team, the Jaguares, you would hope the key players perform better than they have so far this season. Joaquin Tuculet has been great for most part, var one or two games, at fullback. Centre Jeronimo de la Fuente has been their most creative backline player and Nicolas Sanchez need to be a bit more consistent at flyhalf. Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Pablo Matera have been good value, while Agustín Creevy has also been good value. That needs to be converted from Super Rugby to the Test arena.

For England: Thgere are a few players who would feel aggrieved at having missed a call-up to the British and Irish Lions tour. The most notable would be fullback Mike Brown and lock Joe Launcberry. Captain Dylan Hartley may also have a point to priove. George Ford will have a ket role to play in directing the play.

Head to head: There could be a great display of attacking intent by fullbacks Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina) and Mike Vrown (England). The flyhalf battle betweeb Nicolas Sanchez (Argentia) and George Ford (England) will be the key clash. Up front the noggest battle may be between the captaons and hookers - Agustín Creevy (Argentina) and Dylan Hartley (England).

Recent results:
2016: England won 27-14, London
2013: England won 31-12, London
2013: England won 51-26, Buenos Aires
2013: England won 32-3, Salta
2011: England won 13-9, Dunedin (World Cup pool match)
2009: England won 16-9, London
2009: Argentina won 24-22, Salta
2009: England won 37-15, Manchester
2006: Argentina won 25-18, London
2002: England won 26-18, Buenos Aires

Prediction: Argentina do have a realistic chance of winning, given how depleted the England team is. However, we feel Eddie Jones is tactically astute enough to ensure England win - we feel by 15 points.

Teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Ramiro Moyano.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Collier, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona.

Date: Saturday, June 10
Venue: Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario, San Juan
Kick-off: 16.15 (20.15 BST, 19.19 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly sunny with a shower in spots. High of 30°C and a low of 26°C.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com