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Preview: England v Argentina

06th November 2013 15:08

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In an unenviable first match for new Argentina boss Daniel Hourcade, Los Pumas will face England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Argentina have four wins in 2013 but none against a Tier One nation, with their last success coming against Georgia back in June.

That result came after losing a two-match Test series to England and by sizeable margins in Salta and Buenos Aires.

The demands of playing both Test matches in June and then a full schedule in The Rugby Championship meant Argentina split their squad directly into two for each series of games.

For that reason only seven of the 23-man squad that last faced England will be present for Saturday's showdown at Twickenham.

Hourcade's first team is shorn of two of Argentina's more influential players over the last decade - Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Felipe Contepomi. Lobbe's withdrawal is due to injury - which deprives los Pumas of a warrior in the back-row and their captain. The loss of Contepomi to retirement, a fulcrum of the Argentinian backline for over a decade, is just as telling.

Still, despite those losses Argentina possess a number of top players capable of plenty at Test level.

Four of those players remain who were part of one of the South American nation's most famous rugby nights - the win at Twickenham over England in 2006. Gonzalo Tiesi, Horacio Agulla, Patricio Albacete and new captain Juan Manuel Leguizamón made that success happen and followed it up with a third-placed finish at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Federico Todeschini's interception try and five penalties took an England side that was already tumbling down the mountain crashing to the bottom under Andy Robinson, resulting in his departure.

Now Argentina are relying on a wave on new talent to build on those foundations laid by Contepomi, Agustin Pichot and the rest.

Pablo Matera has been identified as the new focal point in the back-row, while Tomás Cubelli continues to wrestle with Martin Landajo for the number nine jersey.

Nicolás Sanchez and Santiago Fernández are a midfield combination reared in the Top 14 to pick the locks of opposition defences, whilst Juan Imhoff is a finisher but has not scored a Test try now since against Wales last November.

It's also impossible to ignore the Pumas' scrum. This is an eight that made mincemeat of the All Blacks on two occasions in recent months, but are cruelly now without the world's best tighthead in Juan Figallo due to injury.

The end of Santiago Phelan's time felt like a series of false dawns, as Argentina intimated over and over that a first win in The Rugby Championship was within reach. There is no disgrace in losing to New Zealand and South Africa (well, some disgrace in losing 73-13), but to lose twice to the poorest Australia side for some time and by such a large margin on home soil - 54-17 - was unacceptable.

Hourcade will be gunning for a big scalp over the next month and while it may not come for Argentina at Twickenham, matches against Wales and Italy remain.

England on the other hand will be confident of a second win in seven days at Twickenham, although their chances are slim of receiving as many fortunate decisions as they did last weekend against the Wallabies.

Mike Brown's undetected footwork and the new "not enough obstruction" mandate gave England the 14 points required to reverse their 6-13 deficit into a victory.

That's not to say that England were without genuine positives. Chris Robshaw was at his warrior-like best leading the tackle count and Billy Vunipola and Marland Yarde both impressed on their home Test debuts. The scrum was explosive - refusing to let up on an Australian pack that somehow gave Argentina the slip in that 50-point mauling in Rosario.

Brown too has, for now, confirmed his spot as England's first-choice 15. Ben Foden now gets his shot on the wing to underline his good early-season form in the absence of Yarde, but Brown was England's most effective attacker against Australia.

Mako Vunipola produced one of his more complete performances in an England shirt to date against the Wallabies, particularly in the scrum, but he is ruled out through injury allowing a start for Harlequins man Joe Marler.

The more surprising selection is that of David Wilson ahead of Dan Cole, but the Bath man has earned his spot due to being in good form and after winning 23 of his 29 caps off the bench. Dylan Hartley will be the man in the middle, replacing Tom Youngs.

With the cavalry of four Lions forwards to come off the bench, England's pack is in strong shape and capable of both withstanding and attacking the threat of Argentina's set-piece.

Ones to Watch:

For England: Not expected to start at full-back because of Brown's performances last weekend, Ben Foden finds himself out on the wing. Marland Yarde has sparkled in his two England caps thus far, but Foden is another proven finisher who has enjoyed an excellent start to the season for Northampton. England's fastest 15 only needs a half-gap to make something happen. Brown out on the wing didn't work last season, but with Foden it might just.

For Argentina: Having to begin your role as captain by responding to accusations that the last coach resigned due to infighting is not an easy first step. Juan Manuel Leguizamón sadly is the man to clean up the mess, but the number eight has been around for some time. Having surprisingly finished The Rugby Championship with three tries - as many as Willie le Roux and Jean de Villiers - Leguizamón is playing some of his best rugby. With 52 caps to his name, the Lyon number eight is maturing into a Test veteran.

Head-to-Head: In for some heavy criticism for a missed tackle on Matt Toomua that led to a try last weekend, Billy Twelvetrees was given Stuart Lancaster's backing as early as possible this week in order to restore his confidence. Twelvetrees acknowledged he played poorly, which is the first step, and the Gloucester star has plenty of attributes to help his country. He needs to start showing it. Bayonne's Santiago Fernández is a similar playmaker at second receiver who has worked well with Marcelo Bosch throughout The Rugby Championship in an effective partnership. Fernández will need to stand up to England's physical carriers in defence, but if he can put Bosch, Imhoff and Horacio Agulla into space then the Pumas will threaten.

Recent results:
2013: England won 56-21 in Buenos Aires
2013: England won 32-3 in Salta
2011: England won 13-9 in Dunedin (RWC)
2009: England won 16-9 at Twickenham
2009: Argentina won 24-22 in Salta
2009: England won 37-15 in Manchester
2006: Argentina won 25-18 at Twickenham
2002: England won 26-18 in Buenos Aires
2000: England won 19-0 at Twickenham
1997: Argentina won 33-13 in Buenos Aires

Prediction: Argentina have a scrum to cause England difficulties, but question marks remain over their ability to finish off chances in their backline. England were rusty last week and with several players having points to prove, should be far sharper and pick up a second win in seven days. England by 7.

The teams:

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Alex Goode.

Argentina: 15 Lucas González Amorosino, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (c), 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Patricio Albacete, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Benjamín Macome, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi, 23 Santiago Cordero.

Date: Saturday, November 9
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

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