PREVIEW: England v Argentina

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 08:11
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England coach Eddie Jones could not resist building up to Saturday's international at home to Argentina by taking a side-swipe at his native Australia.

Jones's praise for the Pumas, who will be aiming to bring his team's 12-match winning run to an end, appeared to be an early shot across Wallaby bows ahead of their Twickenham clash with England on December 3.

Not that the wily Jones will care if his comments that Argentina "were the second-best team in the Rugby Championship" have upset Australia, whose bid for a tour Grand Slam of wins over the 'Home Nations' continues against Ireland on Saturday.

Argentina managed just one victory and finished bottom of the Rugby Championship table, with South Africa (third) and Australia (second) above them in a tournament dominated by world champions New Zealand.

And the Pumas arrive at Twickenham on the back of narrow defeats by both Wales and Scotland.

But Jones, bracing himself for a Wallaby revenge mission following England's 3-0 Test series victory in Australia in June, does not want his side to be "complacent" against Argentina.

"Argentina were probably the second-best side in the Rugby Championship," said Jones.

"That's because of the quality of rugby they played. Any team that stretches the All Blacks for 50 minutes is a really good team.

"They dropped off towards the end of the Championship and they probably had some fatigue. But fatigue tends to go out the window when you know you’re going back to a six-week holiday because this is their last game. 

"They are very physical guys who want to take you on in the maul and breakdown. 

"We know that is coming. But if there's any complacency from us they will be all over us like a rash," insisted Jones.

He added that Argentina would also have the "massive motivation" of trying to improve their ranking ahead of next year's pool draw for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Jones has made four changes to the side which ran in nine tries in the 58-15 thrashing of Fiji.  

Jonny May takes over on the right wing from last weekend's man of the match hero Semesa Rokoduguni, who misses out altogether. 

Fullback Mike Brown also returns while lock George Kruis has recovered from ankle surgery to replace the suspended Joe Launchbury in a pack featuring loose forward Tom Wood.

Meanwhile, Jones insisted England had not produced a world-class player since Jonny Wilkinson retired, although several of the current squad were well on their way to such exalted status.

"Since 2003 there's been only one world-class player produced and that's Jonny Wilkinson," said Jones, coach of the Australia side beaten in the 2003 World Cup final by the England flyhalf great's last-ditch drop -goal. 

"There hasn't been the desire here from the players to really push themselves to be great," explained the former Japan coach, who succeeded Stuart Lancaster as England boss a year ago. 

Jones's move to make Dylan Hartley captain, despite the hooker's appalling disciplinary record, has been a success so far, as has his less publicised decision to appoint Mike Brown, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola as vice-captains.  

"We've got three or four guys now who will always do the right thing and another five or six on the footsteps of always doing the right thing," said Jones.

"We've got guys starting to perform to eight out of 10, every game and when you do that you start to become world-class."

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade, who will deploy the gifted Juan Martin Hernandez at flyhalf in the absence of the injured Nicolas Sanchez, was well aware of the task facing the Pumas.

"England has a great team right now, and they are just behind New Zealand in the rankings," he said. "To beat them would be a great way to end the year. We must believe we can do that."

Players to watch:

For England: Lock George Kruis is back in the second row and is a dynamic forward with a lot of muscle and grunt. No.8 Billy Vunipola is one of the best players in the world right now in open play, while hooker Dylan Hartley is influential in everything he does. In the backline, Ben Youngs makes good decisions on the field, while George Ford has produced some fantastic performances in the No.10 jersey. In the midfield, Owen Farrell gives coach Eddie Jones extra options on attack and another kicking option as well.

For Argentina: Juan Martín Hernández has a lot of X-factor and could give life to the Argentinian backline. Fullback Joaquín Tuculet has made that No.15 jersey his own this season with some sterling performances, while wing Santiago Cordero can unlock any defence with some blistering runs. Up front, hooker and captain Agustin Creevy is the talisman, while lock Guido Petti is the hard man up front who is key in the physical exchanges. No.8 Leonardo Senatore is a dynamic player, who likes to run with the ball.

Head to head: George Ford and Juan Martín Hernández are two very different players in that flyhalf channel and both can control matters at Twickenham. Set-piece dominance will be key on Saturday, especially in the line-outs. Expect an intense battle between some quality locks. There will also be a keen eye on the scrums, especially the battle between Mako Vunipola and Ramiro Herrera.

Recent results:
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 (WC 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
2000: England won 19-0, London

Prediction: Argentina will make life tough for Eddie Jones' side. However, England are a smart side at the moment and will win by at least 12 points


England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola. 
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Henry Slade.

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Orlando, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacement: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Facundo Isa, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Tomás Cubelli,22 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 23 Juan Pablo Estelles.

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 11.30 ART)
Expected weather: Partly clouded with a high of 10C and a low of 5C with a slight breeze.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com