Pumas out to storm fortress Twickenham
November 8, 2013
It will be another physical battle on Saturday between England and Argentina © Getty Images
'Carry them home'. If you were at Twickenham on Saturday you would have done well to have avoided the plentiful slogans emblazoned around local train stations, the walk to the stadium and in the ground itself. But both coach and player paid tribute to the home crowd as they helped inspire England to an important 20-13 win over Australia last weekend.
England were far from their best against the Wallabies, but perhaps that is a key point of difference to Lancaster's reign compared to those who came before him. It was not pretty, but they are winning. Australia asked questions of England, and while some were answered last weekend - England's work at the breakdown was superb - there are still some niggling issues, such as the centre partnership, which need to be addressed.
They will not have it easy against Argentina. The Pumas are under new management, with Daniel Hourcade taking over from Santiago Phelan for the autumn Tests, but they will still bring their traditional brand of fire and brimstone rugby. They are yet to win a Test against a tier one nation this year, having lost to England twice in the summer and falling to defeats in all six of their Rugby Championship matches, but supporters of both teams will remember the Pumas' famous win over England in 2006 at Twickenham.
Mike Brown was sensational against Australia last weekend and was correctly named Man of the Match. He played a key role in England's first try, carried well with ball in hand and keeps his place at fullback for this Saturday's game. England skipper Chris Robshaw also did well while Billy Vunipola carried with aplomb in his home Test debut.
For Argentina, their front-row acquitted themselves well in the Championship and pushed the All Blacks' pack to their limits. A massive blow though will be the loss of Juan Figallo who is out through injury. In their back-row, much is expected of Pablo Matera while at No.8, their captain Juan Manuel Leguizamon is playing the best rugby of his career.
Out of form
Chris Ashton has once again been in the headlines this week with Lancaster suggesting the wing has a point to prove. He has just two tries in his last 18 Tests for England and will be desperate to get over the line this weekend. Further to this, it looked like he was going to be dropped for this week's Test with Marland Yarde and Christian Wade waiting in the wings. But both failed fitness tests and miss out for England.
Billy Twelvetrees is also struggling for form and looked shaky in defence on Saturday for Matt Toomua's try. Despite him looking low on confidence, Lancaster has stuck by him and named him at inside centre.
For the Pumas, their form is a worry. Their last triumph over a tier one nation was back in November last year. They hosted a depleted England in the summer and although the Pumas were also far from full strength, they were rolled over twice by Lancaster's team.
They were tipped to get a maiden victory in the Championship, but they failed to achieve that. Since then, coach Phelan has left his post in charge of Argentina, amid reports of unrest in the changing room, and it is Hourcade who faces the unenviable task of getting the team singing off the same hymn sheet.
Pumas to shock England?
Key area to watch
All eyes will be on the front-row battle. Lancaster has made wholesale changes to England's with Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and David Wilson starting. It is Wilson's inclusion which raised the most eyebrows as Dan Cole, who has started 39 of England's last 41 Tests, dropped out. Argentina are without the fearsome Figallo but will still pack plenty of punch. It should be a seismic clash.
Argentina have 415 caps in their first XV, 128 more than England's total of 287.
Juan Imhoff has not scored a Test try since Argentina's win over Wales last November.
If England beat Argentina on Saturday it will be their sixth consecutive win at home, they have not come close since their record of 22 consecutive wins between 1999 and 2003.
Argentina are currently on a losing streak of six consecutive matches closing in on their undesired record of eight between 1910 and 1936.
England will play better than last week and will come away with a victory in the region of 11 to 15 points.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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