England v Argentina contests are always brutal and Eddie Jones has named his strongest team for Saturday’s game. As predicted the Ford/Farrell axis is retained and fit-again Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell are on the bench. Lewis Ludlam’s strong performances have been rewarded with a place in the match-day twenty three. What’s clear is the need for England to play with tempo and discipline.
To add fuel to the traditional fire between these two teams, Argentinian hooker Agustín Creevy has labelled England ‘boring’. However, judging by their last two matches, the Pumas don’t have that dissimilar a style to England. Charlie Inglefield reviews the key battles for the England v Argentina clash as Pool C gets serious.
England to play with tempo & discipline
Eddie Jones will want to see his England team play with more pace in their game than what we have seen thus far. The two games against Tonga and the USA were understandably unstructured and loose. This brought about a lot of dropped ball as England had plenty of possession to play with. The conditions playing at nighttime in this World Cup have been far more difficult than first thought.
All teams have struggled with the humidity and the handling (even the All Blacks against Canada). This will be an area of the game which England will want to improve on. If England hold onto the ball, do not push the passes then the pace of the game will go up as a result.
Fight fire with fire
As Eddie Jones said today, England v Argentina is always about the physical contest. Put simply, the team that wins the battle upfront will win the game. The set-piece especially the scrum will be an area of strength for both teams. Argentina will field an experienced and powerful pack and England will need to be at their best.
If England can tire the Argentinian forwards then there will be opportunities outwide for the likes of George Ford to feed off. Joe Marler’s power will be essential for the first sixty minutes. Jamie George will need to hit his jumpers and George Kruis will be a key influence on England’s set-piece.
Spotlight on Ben Youngs
Scrum-half Ben Youngs wins his 92nd cap on Saturday and he will be integral to how England will play and go. There has been a fair bit of criticism on Youngs’ shoulders but he is still the best man for the job. Youngs has to concentrate on the basics and reduce his error count. Getting the ball away quickly to stop the opposition resetting their defence has to be a priority for Youngs.
At times England has been painfully slow when going through the phases in their first two games. The Red Rose is at their best when they have pace in their game and time to offload.
Against Ireland in their penultimate warm-up game back in August, England’s forwards and backs worked perfectly in tandem. We got to see the likes of Sam Underhill and Kyle Sinckler offloading to great effect. Youngs’ box kicking has to be accurate as well to allow his wingers time to pressurise Argentina’s back three. As the game hopefully opens up, Youngs will then have opportunities to identify gaps in the Pumas’ defence to have a dart himself.
Ford/Farrell axis to ignite England’s attack
George Ford’s form has demanded a place back in England’s starting XV. It is tough on Henry Slade, but the Exeter man has struggled with injury which was then compounded by Ford’s resurgence. This axis works perfectly when Owen Farrell still leads England around the field as the dominating figure he likes to be. George Ford will then have the task of dictating England’s attacking lines.
We saw fits and starts of this against Tonga but Farrell was largely kept quiet. Ford is at his best when England’s forwards have dominance upfront. Against the Eagles, Ford had an armchair ride allowing him to take the ball to the line and put his runners into space.
The big question mark that Ford has had during his international career, is his ability to dominate and dictate against the best. Argentina is not the best but they are a significant step up from Tonga and the USA. If the Pumas have parity in the forward battle then Ford has to find a way to still be effective.
Discipline, discipline, discipline.
England significantly improved their penalty count against the Americans last week. Granted, the opposition allowed for England’s dominance but it was good to see progress in this crucial facet of the game.
With Argentina’s pack set for battle, England has to keep on the right side of the referee. This means that the likes of Maro Itoje, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have to be accurate – especially at the breakdown. England will be unstoppable if the Pumas are the ones who lose the penalty count.
This is a powerful and impactful England bench. From an English perspective, it is great to see Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola back in the squad. They eat up the metres and are both a great asset coming on during the final quarter. Lewis Ludlam is also rewarded for his powerful performances in the first two games with a place on the bench.
It’s perhaps a surprise not to see Joe Cokanasiga somewhere in the matchday 23 but it is hard to complain when there are Slade and Nowell available. England’s bench is far more superior to Argentina’s bench and that is where the game may well be won.
Main Photo Credit: