Preview: Argentina v England

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:43
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IN THE JUNE SPOTLIGHT: There are 827 days before the 2019 World Cup in Japan, but England coach Eddie Jones says time is running out for fringe players seeking seats on the Tokyo flight.

The Australian has been drilling into his squad this week the importance of the second and final Test against Argentina Saturday in northeastern city Santa Fe.

A late try from New Zealand-born Rugby League convert Denny Solomona gave the visitors a 38-34 first Test triumph in one of the most exciting internationals this year.

Now Jones wants to complete a 2-0 series whitewash, and hopes some of his severely depleted squad raise their hands as World Cup squad candidates.

The coach plans to name a 45-strong elite player squad this August and told reporters the group will have a "strong World Cup colour about it.

"It will certainly be more geared toward the World Cup than previous squads," said the architect of a stunning triumph by Japan over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in England.

"I would estimate about 80 percent of the squad for the World Cup in Japan will come from the 45 players who form the next elite group.

"That is why the second Test against the Pumas is really important - it may be the last chance for some to show me they deserve to be considered for the World Cup."

England flew to South America minus 30 of their top players, primarily because 16 had been called up for British and Irish Lions tour duty in New Zealand.

That opened the door for fringe players to impress Jones, who was also a key advisor to coach Jake White when South Africa won the 2007 World Cup in France.

While teenage flank Tom Curry received rave media reviews for his first Test performance in San Juan, Jones also singled out fellow loose forward Mark Wilson.

"He has been a real revelation," was the Jones critique of the 27-year-old openside flank.

Wilson is on the bench and Curry takes a break this weekend with former skipper Chris Robshaw and debutant Sam Underhill joining retained No.8 Nathan Hughes in the back row.

The other change from the first Test starters is at inside centre with Piers Francis taking over from Alex Lozowski, who is among the replacements.   

The Pumas also have cause for optimism as they build toward the World Cup, where they will tackle England, France and two nations to be decided in the pool stages.  

Argentina excelled in San Juan during the second half and it was difficult to believe that the same players had been floundering lately playing Super Rugby as the Jaguares.

Veteran multi-capped utility back Juan Martin Hernández thought he had won the match with a drop-goal only to be upstaged by a 79th-minute try from Solomona.

"We were the superior side for much of the first Test and I hope we can triumph in Santa Fe," coach Daniel Hourcade told reporters.

"My team wasted some good scoring opportunities and surrendered possession at key moments. I hope we have learnt from our mistakes.

"I am encouraged, though, by the continual improvement the Pumas  show in many aspects of the game. We did particularly well at the scrums and line-outs," he said.  

What will concern Hourcade is that a losing streak against England has extended to seven matches.

The Pumas last celebrated a Test victory over the English in 2009, edging a thriller 24-22 in Salta.

Hourcade has made one change to his starting side for Santa Fe, promoting Ramiro Moyano to the right wing with Matias Moroni dropping to the bench.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: Los Pumas would hope their key playmakers perform - fullback Joaquin Tuculet, centre Jeronimo de la Fuente and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez. Up front the spotlight will be on Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini and most of all captain Agustín Creevy.

For England: Last week Rugby League convert came off the bench to save England's blushes. This week the likes of Mike Brown, Henry Slade, George Ford and Danny Care should do the job first up. There may not be a chance for a late rescue act again. Chris Robshaw's recall means he will demand a substantial portion of the spotlight.

Head to head: You can find intriguing battles all over the park, but they key will be the performances of the talents halfbacks - No.10 Nicolas Sanchez and No.9 Martín Landajo (Argentina) against flyhalf George Ford and scrumhalf Danny Care (England).

Recent results:
2017: England won 38-34, San Juan
2016: England won 27-14, London
2013: England won 31-12, London
2013: England 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 37-15, Manchester
2006: Argentina won 25-18, London

Prediction: Argentina - and also the extension of the national team, the Jaguares in Super Rugby - seem to have lost the drive that once saw them at No.4 in the world rankings. Their discipline is poor and only occasionally do their get their attempts at an expansive game right - mostly against under-strength teams. Of course Saturday could be one of those occasions, where the stars align for them. However, we feel England will win far more convincing than last week - at least 15 points.

Teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martín 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), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Matias Moroni.

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

Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez, Santa Fe
Kick-off: 16.15 (20.15 BST, 19.15 GMT)
Expected weather: Sunny, with a high of 34° C and a low of 16° C. North wind around 16km/h, becoming west in the afternoon.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Agence France-Presse