PREVIEW: England v Argentina

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:31
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones is banking on his racehorse trainer-style "gut feel" paying dividends against Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday after leaving out both Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje for England's end-of-year Test series opener.

The Australian has omitted the Saracens duo on the grounds of their "exceptional workloads" this season, after saying he would rest some of those England players involved in the gruelling British and Irish Lions 1-1 series win in New Zealand earlier this year.

Former Australia and Japan coach Jones was glad of the way the pair had reacted to missing the Argentina match while insisting he had no qualms about his decision.

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"They hated it, which is a great reaction," Jones told reporters at England's hotel in Bagshot, southwest of London, on Thursday. "They hate it because they want to play every Test,"

Jones, however, added: "At the end of the day they have got to understand I run the team.

"I make the decisions. And I make those decisions in the best interests of the team and for the individual,"

As with all leading international coaches, Jones receives vast amounts of information on all his players but he insisted there was still a place for old-fashioned intuition.  

"I've got wellness stats, urine stats, psychological stats, reload, reform stats, GPS stats," he explained.

"It's a bit like being a horse-trainer. You get all this information, you see all these things but you've got to look at the person and see what they are ready to do.

"I can't explain it because it comes down to my gut feel for what they need,"

Henry Slade has replaced Farrell at inside centre, while Sam Underhill starts at openside flank.

England have won all three of their Tests against 2019 World Cup pool opponents Argentina since Jones took charge, including a 2-0 series win in two tight matches in Argentina in June.

The Pumas have had a miserable 2017 so far, winning just one out of nine Tests - against Georgia in June.

"Argentina are coming off the back of not a good season. Their coach (Daniel Hourcade) is under pressure, their players are under pressure," said Jones.

"But they know if they beat England at Twickenham then their whole season turns around.

"They can go back to Buenos Aires and sit on the beach as heroes. Everyone will want to buy them a beer. Everyone will want to buy them a steak,"

England and Argentina have been drawn in the same pool at the 2019 World Cup in Japan but Jones said he did not expect the outcome of Saturday's match to have a huge bearing on events in two years' time.

"These are all sparring matches," said Jones. "You can win sparring matches but when you get to the heavyweight contests in the World Cup, it's going to be a different kettle of fish."

Meanwhile, Hourcade insisted the burden of expectation was all on an England side who've lost just once since Jones took over following their first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

"You are always under pressure at the top level," he said. "The pressure is perhaps more on England. They are number two in the world, we are number 10. If we lose it would be logical but if they lose it wouldn't."

Hourcade has recalled veteran fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, a star of the Pumas' lone previous Test win against England at Twickenham -- a 25-18 success in 2006.

"We want to take advantage of Juan Martin's experience," said Hourcade of the 35-year-old Hernandez, nicknamed 'The Magician'.

"Everyone knows how good a player he is. Time moves for everyone but he is a player with the capacity to adapt to any sort of game."

But in order for Hernandez to be at his most effective, Hourcade knows Argentina must win the battle up front.

"We have a very heavy pack of forwards because we know that's a strength of the English team," he said.

"The breakdown will be key and I think whoever succeeds in dominating this area will have the initiative."

Players to watch:

For England: Much has been made Owen Farrell’s absence, nonetheless it provides Henry Slade with a chance to prove himself to a side they are going to face in Japan come 2019. Meanwhile, the back three consisting of Mike Brown (fullback), Antony Watson (right wing) and Elliot Daly (left wing) gives England that extra agility with ball in hand.  The combination of Dan Cole, captain Dylan Hartley and Mako Vunipola will provide the physicality up front.   

For Argentina: If Argentina can keep 15 men on the field for 80 minutes the side could pose a real threat. The fullback Joaquin Tuculet can provide a lot of entertainment, especially with his speed and counter-attack prowess. The combination of Marcos Kremer and Pablo Matera as the two flanks makes Los Pumas dangerous at the breakdown.
 
Head to head: Well when it comes to facing Argentina, the set-piece battle always takes centre stage and this week is no different. England boast with George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Mako Vunipola, while Argentina have Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, captain Agustin Creevy and Santiago Garcia Botta in their armour. if you looking for a battle in the backline you have to look no further than the scumhalf battle between Ben Youngs (England) and Martin Landajo (Argentina), the other significant backline battle will be at fullback, Mike Brown (England) against Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina).

Recent Results:

2017: England won 35-25, Santa Fe
2017: England won 38-34, San Juan
2016: England won 27-14, Twickenham
2013: England won 31-12, Twickenham
2013: England won 51-26, Buenos Aires
2013: England won 32-2, Salta
2011: England won 13-9, Dunedin (World Cup)
2009: England won 16-9, Twickenham

Prediction: England’s finesse and ability to suffocate teams will be too much for the Argentina side who have been struggling with ill-discipline and lack of composure. Thus, England will win this by 15 points or more.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola.   
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Danny Care, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martín Hernandez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Tomás Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolás Sánchez, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT; 12.00 Argentina Time)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Agence France-Presse