England hope to tame Pumas
September 7, 2011
Felipe Contepomi will hope to replicate his form from the 2007 World Cup © Getty Images
England face Argentina in Dunedin on Saturday looking to replicate their last World Cup match in the southern hemisphere.
The team led by the now team manager Martin Johnson took the 2003 William Webb Ellis Cup in Sydney with a last minute Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal and they will hope to put down a marker to the rest of the Antipodean watching public. With Johnno's charges recording two wins out of three in their warm-up Tests, optimism is brewing that England may just spring a surprise in the 'Land of the Long White Cloud.' However, standing in their way on Saturday is a Pumas side looking to continue where they left off.
Argentina were the standout side in the 2007 World Cup - alongside tournament victors South Africa - and played some exhilarating rugby with the likes of Agustin Pichot, Juan Martin Hernandez and Felipe Contepomi all shining.
However, one third of the three musketeers remains and Contepomi will captain the side hoping to make an impression in Pool B. Argentina's build-up to the tournament consisted of games against a South America XV and Worcester Warriors and just one Test against Wales. They were outplayed that day in the Millennium Stadium so they are a relatively unknown quantity going into this campaign. Though with the likes of Contepomi and the typically ferocious front-row still intact, they will leave any opponents they encounter feeling bruised and bloodied.
England - Player to Watch: Not wanting to heap any more pressure on a player that even Jonny Wilkinson has labelled the future of English rugby, but all eyes will undoubtedly be on Manu Tuilagi. Has just two caps to his name and yet already has two tries to his name. A more physically imposing centre you are unlikely to see and still only 20, he could become a global star over the course of the next month or so.
England - Team News: Mark Cueto has been ruled out with a lower back problem so London Irish fullback Delon Armitage will start on the left wing. Armitage's promotion to the starting line-up is one of two changes in personnel to the side which defeated Ireland, with Nick Easter, who was forced to withdraw from the game because of a calf strain, returning to the back-row in place of Hendre Fourie. Easter's inclusion sees James Haskell switch to openside flanker in the continued absence of captain Lewis Moody, who is still struggling with a nagging knee injury. The fit-again Ben Youngs has made the bench.
Argentina - Player to Watch: Gonzalo Camacho shone for Harlequins during the 2010-11 season and crossed the line for the match-winning try in their Amlin Challenge Cup final clash with Stade Francais. And following his move to Premiership rivals the Exeter Chiefs, Camacho looks set to shine for both club and country.
Argentina - Team News: There are plenty of familiar names in the Pumas' side with Premiership duo Camacho and Horacio Agulla taking the wing berths with Martin Rodriguez anchoring the side at fullback. Gonzalo Tiesi and Santiago Fernandez line up in the centres while Contepomi will steer the side from half-back alongside scrum-half Nicolas Vergallo. The vastly experienced Rodrigo Roncero lines up in the front-row alongside the evergreen Mario Ledesma and the new-kid-on-the-block Juan Figallo. Patricio Albacete is in the second-row with Manuel Carizza while Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamon are partnered in the back-row by Julio Farias Cabello.
Key Battle: With both sides boasting formidable packs, this is one game that will most certainly be decided up front, with the breakdown likely to prove crucial. England must make do without skipper Moody but in Haskell they have a versatile and dynamic forward who is more than capable of filling the void. However, Haskell, Tom Croft and Nick Easter will all have to be on top form if they are to get the better of Argentina's back-row trio of Juan Martin Fernandez, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Julio Farias Cabello. Still, while Fernandez and Leguizamon are as wily as they are talented and experienced, Cabello, despite being in his 30s, is a relative newcomer at this level and could be exposed.
Trivia: England have the most drop-goals in World Cup history with 19 - Jonny Wilkinson has contributed 13 of them.
Stats: Since 2006 the two sides have met four times with each team recording two wins apiece.
"They're always a handful as a nation. A very physical outfit, the whole team: forward line, back line, they won't give up. It's always a very hard, physical encounter against them and I don't think that will ever change." - England scrum coach Graham Rowntree outlines the threat posed by the Argentines
"I have a huge respect for Jonny as he is one of the best players in the world and a great man. That makes him even better." - Felipe Contepomi talks up Jonny Wilkinson ahead of the clash
Prediction: This might not be one for the purists but it will doubtless be a fiercely competitive affair, the proverbial war of attrition, so therefore utterly compelling all the same. England should have just a little too much power up front and a little too much potency behind the scrum for the Pumas, who do not look as strong as they did in France four years ago. Still, in saying that, in Felipe Contepomi they have a true maverick who is capable of producing a piece of magic out of nothing. England to edge a low-scoring affair.
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