LONDON, ENGLAND – This weekend, the Pumas visit Twickenham to take on an England side that is looking to improve upon their performance last weekend against Australia. Though both sides met for a two Test “series” in June, each was well short of their full complement of players. Argentina was resting players for a Rugby Championship campaign that did not go as planned, while England had several Lions chasing glory Down Under. RugbyWrapUp has your match preview, going through each area of the game, and breaking down who has the advantage, and where.
England starts an entirely changed front row of David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, and Joe Marler, while Argentina send in their own untried prop Maximiliano Bustos, who enters the lineup with Juan Figallo injured. Hooker Eusebio Guinazu also comes in, as Agustin Creevy has withdrawn with an injury. Leicester Tiger stalwart Marcus Ayerza, who has yet to play a game for the East Midlands outfit this season due to international commitments, will round things out. Though much has been made in the pre-match buildup of Argentina’s vaunted strength in the scrum, their past reputation seems to be carrying the day at this point. Lancaster’s changes suggest that he is comfortable fielding a somewhat experimental pack, and England’s front three are certainly better in the loose. I have trouble seeing things going Argentina’s way, bar a massive day out, and England’s fortress will be singing “Swing Low” all day long.
England retains the partnership of Lawes and Launchbury, despite the match fitness of Geoff Parling. Parling certainly impressed during the Lions tour, but one suspects that Lancaster is keeping him on the bench to ensure full fitness in the match that matters, against New Zealand. After a barnstorming debut year, Launchbury has encountered some of the expected growing pains, but Lawes star is once again in the ascendant. England looks to have the foundation of a solid second row for years to come, willing to do the hard work in the rucks. Lawes in particular brings big play ability, and more than once his tackles have set stadiums alight. Toulouse lock Patricio Albacete will try to match Lawes all day long, and may succeed. Mariano Galareza gains his 11th cap for the Pumas, and will try to play his part in the vaunted Argentine scrum. The tight five as a whole are very solid, though some mental scars may remain from an embarrassing conclusion to the Rugby Championship campaign.
Another Leicester man features for Argentina in Pablo Matera, making it a unique situation for England supporters, as more Tigers will be on the field for the Pumas than for the home side at the start of the match. In fact, the English club champions place no men in the Starting XV for one of the first times in recent memory. Matera will be looking to make an impact following his move from openside to blindside flanker. England’s Chris Robshaw will be happy with the impression he made in an extremely solid display against Australia, and scoring his first international try will not have hurt matters. He is once again partnered by Tom Wood, whose industry sometimes goes unnoticed by the casual observer but is invaluable to England’s success.
Lee Dickson gets another chance for England, despite not setting the world alight last weekend. To be fair, nobody on the England side did themselves too much credit, particularly in the first half, and that includes Owen Farrell, who had a day to forget with the boot. England could have been well away by halftime but for his misses, and though he went a long way to making amends with a try (obstruction or not, the line he took was superb). Both men will be looking to press their claims, with Toby Flood and Ben Youngs lurking offstage. Here is where things start to get particularly shaky for the Argentines, with Nicolas Sanchez taking the reins. He will be partnered by Tomas Cubelli, who plays for Argentine club Belgrano. Though the play in Argentina’s domestic league gets better by the year, it is really not sufficient when confronting top sides on a weekly basis, as Argentina have done for the duration of the Rugby Championship. The Pumas best hope for victory on current form and selection probably will come against Italy on November 23.
England’s centres struggled, as Billy Twelvetrees turned in a shocking display. Joel Tompkins was not bad, but at times he was rendered invisible by lack of service. England badly miss Manu Tuilangi, and the presence of Luther Burrell is seemingly a question of “when” not “if.” Twelvetrees could respond in one of two ways to the pressure that is sure to come; he could rise to the occasion, or his international career will likely be put on a lengthy hold. Argentina run out the experienced pair of Santiago Fernandez and Marcelo Bosch, who have 61 caps between them. Argentina as a whole have a massive experiental edge on England, with 417 caps in their starting XV compared to 207 for England.
Mike Brown won a well-deserved man of the match award last weekend, though as several commentators noted, the fact that a fullback won without scoring a try spoke volumes about the tactics used. Supporters will be hoping for much more width this weekend, and though Chris Ashton retains his place on the wing because of injuries to Christian Wade and Marland Yarde, he is another England player under pressure to retain his place. English papers had suggested that Wade would get another start against Argentina, and though it did not come to pass, England fans will likely be thinking of what could have been in Ashton wastes another chance or two down the wing. Ben Foden will move over to wing because of the sudden shortage, hoping to stake his own claim to a more permanent place. Horacio Agulla and Juan Imhoff form a solid pair on the wings for Argentina , while Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, of RugbyWrapUp’s darling Oyonnax will be bringing up the rear.
Though Argentina’s unexpected strength may lie in the backs, their halfback pairing will probably not be able to give good ball to their wings, where the quality lies. Argentina cannot rest upon their laurels as a scrimmaging nation of the 2000’s, and must evolve with the new sequence. The nation is certainly on the way up, particularly with regular exposure to an annual Tier 1 competition, but this will be a bridge too far, and they will fall heavily to England for the third time in a year.