By James Beringer
Another week, another England win, making it twelve in a row. England fans may now start to cautiously dream of matching New Zealand’s record, and will certainly be looking to end the year unbeaten. Saturday welcomes Argentina to Twickenham, a team that has developed a reputation as one of international rugby’s toughest customers since their inclusion in the Rugby Championship in 2012. Argentina will be looking to bounce back from successive defeats against both Wales and Scotland, and have struggled to hit top gear so far in this autumn series. Having relinquished their place in the top eight ranked teams, this weekend’s game is the last opportunity for the Pumas to take control of their fate before the World Cup draw next May.
In terms of past meetings between the two sides, England have won 14 and the Pumas have won just four. Crucially, England lead the head to head of games played in England 6-1, with Argentina’s sole victory coming in 2006. In team news, Joe Launchbury is out after being suspended for a kick in last weekend’s match, so George Kruis will take his place alongside Courtney Lawes in the second-row. Tom Wood retakes his place in the back row. Semesa Rokoduguni has been sent back to Bath despite scoring two tries and winning the man-of-the match award against Fiji on Saturday – a testament to this England’s squad’s strength in depth. Jonny May and Mike Brown will return to the squad after missing out against the Pacific Islanders. For Argentina, scrum-half Martin Landajo has been replaced by Tomas Cubelli, and fly half Nicolas Sanchez will be rested allowing Juan Martin Hernandez to fill his boots.
Tactically, England’s main focus will be maintaining intensity throughout the entire match. They started brightly against Fiji, but started cruising after accumulating a healthy lead, and allowed their opponents to score three tries. Defensively this is a little more than Eddie Jones will have wanted, and he will be keen for his side to improve in this area against a much more potent Argentinian side. They will also look to continue their attacking ethos, moving the ball to the wings quickly in the hopes of stretching the Argentinian defense thin. Pressure will be on captain Dylan Hartley to produce a good performance after a disappointing game against Fiji, reflected in his rather lacklustre post match interview.
For Argentina, the number one rule will surely be to avoid giving away last minute penalties. Their losses against Wales and Scotland were both down to heartbreaking final kicks that took the games agonizingly out of reach. Their scrum will be key as it thoroughly dominated Scotland last weekend, and can be an effective platform against England. Their backs are extremely talented and can cause problems for any team. If Cordero, Moroni, Orlando and Hernandez can fire on all cylinders this weekend then England will need to work hard to contain their raw power, pace and aggression. Their try against Scotland was wonderfully worked, and it is that fluidity that will serve them well against Eddie Jones’ side.
If England can draw on the confidence that has surely accumulated over the past 12 months, and stick to the game plan that their coaching staff have devised, they it is well within their capabilities to stretch their winning run to 13 games. However, if Argentina can rediscover that spark that saw them light up the World Cup last year, then the game will most certainly be on at Twickenham this Saturday.