Preview: Argentina v England

Date published: June 14 2013

England will look to secure a first Test series victory in Argentina since 1981 when they take on the Pumas on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

England will look to secure a first Test series victory in Argentina since 1981 when they take on the Pumas on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Rather than the stern challenge many expected Stuart Lancaster's side to face in Salta, Argentina's aged but inexperienced pack lacked the necessary bite.

England instead cruised for the first 40 minutes, leading 25-3 at the break, before coming out and stuttering in the second half as their execution and precision evaded them.

A complete performance is something England have not come close to since the win against the All Blacks in December. Yet even despite them failing to find their rhythm in the second half, they still held firm in defence and scored the only try through the nightmarish Billy Vunipola.

Losing stars either to the British and Irish Lions tour or being rested has paid dividends. No partnership was more promising than the link between Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees in midfield – in fact it was so effective that Twelvetrees found himself on a play to join the Lions on Wednesday.

There was also a reminder of just how much England missed Ben Morgan in the Six Nations. For all the industry of Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and James Haskell, few are as destructive and make as much ground as the Gloucester number eight.

The tour has been all about blooding youngsters and Henry Thomas, Christian Wade, Matt Kvesic, Billy Vunipola and Kyle Eastmond looked comfortable against an admittedly weaker opposition than expected.

Of those five, Eastmond is arguably the most exciting talent on display this weekend alongside London Irish debutant Marland Yarde. Stepping into Twelvetrees shoes in Buenos Aires will give the Bath star a chance to underline his potential at Test level as not just a finisher, but a playmaker.

“It is great to reward young players who have pushed through this season. They have worked hard to earn their opportunities on this tour,” said Lancaster.

“This is a young England side which made a very positive start to the series in Salta. But we expect Argentina to come back very strongly in front of a big home crowd. It's a great challenge and one we are all looking forward to.”

Argentina on the other hand have made five changes to their side that were comprehensively outclassed in Salta.

Guillermo Roan, Julio Farías, Rodrigo Báez, Belisario Agulla and Gabriel Ascárate all come into the starting XV, whilst veteran captain Felipe Contepomi moves infield to form a half-back partnership with Nicolás Vergallo.

The 21 leading absentees from Argentina's squad, all rested for The Rugby Championship, have illustrated that whilst the Pumas depth has certainly grown, it is perhaps not quite as strong as many believe.

Last week's loss in Salta felt like a distinctive backward step, even remembering the resilience shown by Argentina in the second half.

For those players wishing to participate against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia later in the year, this is one of their few final chances to impress head coach Santiago Phelan and his team. The set-piece in particular has to improve.

Ones to Watch:

For Argentina: A bright spark for the Puma in last year's Rugby Championship was the emergence of winger Manuel Montero. Pacy, strong and full of running, the 21-year old is full of talent and can excel on the international stage with time and patience. He just needs to find his feet.

For England: Given that Christian Wade featured last week, his opposite man in Buenos Aires deserves similar recognition. Marland Yarde will wear an 11 shirt that has become somewhat of a crutch for England in recent years after the end of Mark Cueto's time. David Strettle has struggled to nail down his spot whilst Mike Brown has been used as a stop-gap. Yarde has the talent on both sides of the ball to become a Test regular.

Head-to-Head: Two tens at the opposite ends of the Test arena. Felipe Contepomi has seen and done it all, making his Test debut when Freddie Burns was just eight years of age. Both however are not short of flair – Contepomi simply didn't have enough clean ball in the first Test to showcase it. Burns this week has a new man outside him, as he continues to gather experience.

Prediction: Based on last week's dominance and the promise of Eastmond, Yarde and the rest of England's young stars, the tourists should seal a first series win in the country since 1981. England by 20.

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Belisario Agulla, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Gabriel Ascárate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Julio Farías, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Martin Garcia Veiga, 1 Guillermo Roan.
Replacements: 16 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 17 Pablo Henn, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Tomás De La Vega, 20 Tomás Cubelli, 21 Benjamín Madero, 22 Matías Orlando.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Paul Doran Jones, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Ben Foden.

Date: Saturday, June 15
Venue: Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Kickoff: 16:10 local (20:10 BST)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Carlos Molinari (Argentina)

by Ben Coles