England take foot off the gas in muted display
England 31 Argentina 12
England head coach Stuart Lancaster admitted there were few celebrations as his side defeated Argentina at Twickenham. England scored four tries through Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees, Chris Ashton and Ben Morgan but it was a patchy performance which lost momentum in the second half.
And Lancaster admitted his team, who beat Australia last weekend and have won nine of their last 10 internationals, would need to improve for next week's encounter against world No 1 New Zealand.
"All the players are pleased overall but no one is jumping up and down. We have a big game coming next week," said Lancaster. "Defensively we were excellent but game management is where we need to concentrate most. Win or lose next week depends on who manages the game best. Second half, clearly Argentina upped their game. We didn't quite manage the breakdown as well as we'd done in the first half, we were a little bit loose and Argentina kept the ball for long periods.
"We need to look at those areas and improve for next week. Overall, if you said that 31-12 was going to be the scoreline, I'd have taken it, definitely. Every international team is looking for that complete performance. You often see it from New Zealand, the top team, and that's what we're striving to get. We know we've got to improve in certain areas for next week but the positives far outweigh the negatives."
Lancaster admitted he had some big decisions to make for the All Blacks, not least the wing position where Ashton scored just his third try in his last 19 Tests, though there were suggestions he was out of play when grounding the ball. Ashton, it was revealed, would not have been playing if Christian Wade had not injured a hamstring in training.
Backs coach Andy Farrell was adamant that England needed to improve but also saw promise in their first-half display.
With one eye on the All Blacks next week, Farrell said: "We'll have to play better. We'll take some really good lessons from this game. There aren't many teams who have got so many penalties from scrums against Argentina."
Outhalf Owen Farrell kicked a penalty and three conversions and Toby Flood also landed a conversion in the second half, while Nicolas Sanchez scored three penalties for Argentina, with Marcelo Bosch landing a long-range effort.
"That's nine out of the last 10 internationals we have won so we have got an inner-confidence building but we recognise the challenges coming our way," said Lancaster.
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said: "In the first half we kicked the ball away too quickly so we let England dominate the play and in the second half we corrected that and managed to dominate the attack a bit more. We were more aggressive. When we started we were perhaps a bit nervous."
Scorers – England: J Launchbury, B Twelvetrees, C Ashton, B Morgan try each; O Farrell 4 cons, pen. Argentina: N Sanchez 3 pens, M Bosch pen.
England: M Brown (A Goode 75); C Ashton, J Tomkins, B Twelvetrees (T Flood 61), B Foden; O Farrell, L Dickson (D Care 51); J Marler (A Corbisiero 40), D Hartley (T Youngs 62), D Wilson (D Cole 62); J Launchbury, C Lawes (G Parling 55); T Wood, C Robshaw, B Vunipola (B Morgan 55).
Argentina: L Gonzalez Amorosino; H Agulla, M Bosch, S Fernandez, J Imhoff (S Cordero 31); N Sanchez (G Tiesi 64), T Cubelli (M Landajo 61); M Ayerza (S Iglesias 76), E Guinazu (N Lobo 76), M Bustos (J Orlandi 66); P Albacete, M Galarza (M Carizza 54); J F Cabello, P Matera, J Manuel Leguizamon.
Referee: P Gauzère (France)