Monday 19 March 2018

Fading Pumas still have enough bite to hurt England – Catt

Chris Hewett

England expects, naturally enough. There is always an overpowering whiff of red rose assumption when Argentina come to Twickenham, and while the Pumas know what it is to have the last laugh at the stadium, they never go into one of these contests as anything other than rank outsiders.

Now they are sliding down the world rankings, the expectation from the home crowd today will be greater than ever.

As things stand, Argentina occupy 10th position and could be overhauled by both Tonga and Italy if they are not extremely careful. On the face of it, then, England should spend their afternoon running in tries from the back end of beyond.

However, England attacking skills coach Mike Catt was more tuned into the reality of the situation when he weighed up the prospects.

"If you look at some of the stuff the Pumas played in the Rugby Championship just recently, it's clear they're developing a good off-loading game behind the scrum and can attack with real intensity," he said. "You have to be really careful when you go up against them. If you give them scraps to play with, they love you for it."

Billy Twelvetrees, playing in Catt's old position of inside centre, holds the key. Before last week's meeting with the Wallabies, head coach Stuart Lancaster agreed that there was still a gap between the theory of Twelvetrees – a midfielder who ticks so many boxes with his size, strength, kicking game and passing quality – and the reality. Sadly for the Gloucester player, his error count against the Australians was the most public part of his performance.

"We know Billy can do it," Catt insisted. "We've seen him do it. He's a fantastic player. I couldn't actually believe the things he said himself about his display against the Wallabies. When I read it, I thought: 'Whoa! Hold on! It wasn't that bad.'"

There was a late change to the England set-up when Ben Youngs, who was carried off the training field on Tuesday after suffering a heavy blow to his hip, failed a fitness test and withdrew from the bench.

Danny Care, who knows his way around the international paddock after winning 41 caps over the last five years, finds himself restored to the substitutes as a consequence. (© Independent News Service)

England – M Brown ; C Ashton, J Tomkins, B Twelvetree, B Foden; O Farrell, L Dickson; J Marler, D Hartley, D Wilson; J Launchbury, C Lawes; T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Vunipola. Reps: T Youngs, A Corbisiero, D Cole, G Parling, B Morgan, D Care, T Flood, A Goode .

Argentina – L Gonzalez Amorosino; H Agulla, M Bosch, S Fernandez, J Imhoff; N Sanchez, T Cubelli; M Ayerza, E Guinazu, M Bustos; M Galarza, P Albacete; P Matera, J Farias Cabello, JM Leguizamon (capt). Reps: S Iglesias, N Lobo, JP Orlandi, M Carizza, B Macome, M Landajo, G Tiesi, S Cordero.

Ref – P Gauzere (France)

England v Argentina,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 2.30

Irish Independent

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