By Max Mathews
- England revert back to full-strength team
- Ford plays alongside captain Farrell
- Argentina captain ready to go to ‘war’
TOKYO, JAPAN – England look to make it three wins from three against old foes Argentina, who probably need to win to progress – all the analysis and talking points here.
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Faith in Ford-Farrell axis
Once again George Ford plays at fly-half, with captain Owen Farrell coming in at inside centre, in a huge show of faith in the Leicester man who is rewarded for creative performances in the first two matches with the 10 jersey.
He was expected to play against the two weaker sides in Tonga and USA, where he excelled, but head coach Eddie Jones had previously tended to bench him for games against tougher teams, with doubts over his game management when England are struggling or their pack is less dominant.
Elsewhere – after playing the fringe squad against USA – Jones has reverted to his first-choice XV, with lock George Kruis for Courtney Lawes the only change from the team which opened the tournament against Tonga.
With quick ball needed for the ‘two playmakers’ line-up, fetcher flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill play together, and there are welcome returns from injury for Mako Vunipola, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell, who all make the bench alongside bolter Lewis Ludlam.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs will become the England men’s team’s third most capped player when he plays in his 92nd game, while Mark Wilson and Jonathan Joseph can feel hard done by to miss out.
Different challenge for England
While Tonga’s big hitters and American John Quill’s bone-crunching high tackle sent brief shudders through England, Argentina are the first real test so far.
Head coach Jones said to BBC Sport: “They’ve got good players, they’ve got a settled way of playing. They enjoy World Cups more than the other major teams, because there’s such a pride and passion. Argentina are always about the physical contest, the challenge for us is to show the same level of intensity.”
“They are a completely different team from others we have played so far. This week it’s about getting our game right, our set-piece in a good place and making sure we are defensively organised and ready to find ways to score points.”
Argentina going to war again
Realistically, if Argentina – currently third after a win and a narrow defeat to France – are to qualify they need to beat England, who top the group after two bonus-point wins from two, making this their whole World Cup.
And the importance of the game wasn’t lost on former Worcester player Agustin Creevy, 34, who will become the Pumas’ most-capped player with 88 if he comes off the bench.
He said to BBC Sport: “Saturday’s going to be like a war. It’s a final for us. The battle is going to be in the forwards – we need to win the scrum, the lineout, the maul and the breakdown. Their structure is sometimes boring but I think it’s good for England. It works for them.”
Fighting talk, especially considering sport contests between the countries in the past forty years have often taken place against the backdrop of the Falklands War in 1982, a conflict which led to the deaths of 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen, plus three people from the islands.
Diego Maradona has said his Hand of God goal against England in the 1986 World Cup was revenge for the Falklands, while FIFA fined the Argentina Football Association £20,000 after its players displayed a banner supporting their country’s claims to the Falklands in 2014.
England have won 18 of their 23 meetings with Argentina, including the last nine matches between the two teams.
They have not beaten England since 2009 but their recent record in the tournament – two semi-finals and a quarter-final in the last three editions – is superior to Jones’ side.
England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, M Vunipola, Cole, Lawes, Ludlam, Heinz, Slade, Nowell.
Argentina: Boffelli; Moroni, Orlando, De La Fuente, Carreras; Urdapilleta, Cubelli; Chaparro, Montoya, Figallo, Pagadizabal, Lavanini, Matera, Kremer, Desio.
Replacements: Creevy, Vivas, Medrano, Alemanno, Lezana, Ezcurra, Mensa, Delguy.
England will face Argentina on Saturday 5 October at 9am in Tokyo.
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