Argentina can be a tough place to tour both on and off the pitch. Visitors to the Pumas’ lair expect a hostile reception; when England took to the pitch in Buenos Aires in 1990, they were pelted with oranges, followed shortly by a metal tap from the proverbial kitchen sink.
It can be equally perilous after the final whistle, as Irish international Willie Anderson discovered in 1978 when he was sentenced to three months porridge after ‘borrowing’ a flag from a government building. Anderson eventually got off, but the point is an Argentinean adventure isn’t always a picnic.
Eddie Jones’ class of 2017 will hopefully be spared the indignity of flying fruit or an unscheduled night in the cells. But with the Red Rose’s finest on Lions duty 6,000 miles west across the Pacific in New Zealand, England have cause for concern.
In typically robust style, Jones has already said that nothing but a 2-0 series against the Pumas will do. To achieve that, the England head coach is going to need some stellar performances from some unfamiliar faces.
Seventeen of the 31-strong tour party are uncapped. Jones has unsurprisingly decided to focus on the positives, talking up the opportunity for his untested youngsters to cement a place in the team; however, Santa Fe will be a bear pit, and international careers could be as easily crushed as created.
England will need wise heads. Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Danny Care – all capped 50 times or more – will be pivotal if the tourists are to escape unscathed this weekend. Throw Joe Launchbury, Marland Yarde and George Ford into the mix and the visitors have at least almost have a team who’ve been around the block.
Saturday’s Test will be the 21st meeting between the two countries since the inaugural Test in Buenos Aires, in 1981. England has won 15 of the previous 20 meetings, including the last six, and it has been eight years since the Pumas were able to prune the Red Rose – winning 24-22 in Salta. Of England’s four defeats to Argentina, however, three have come on South American soil, illustrating the size of the challenge ahead for Jones and his callow squad.
In contrast, Daniel Hourcade has named a Pumas squad bursting with Test experience. Argentina has just one international newcomer in their ranks and only three others yet to make double figures in terms of caps. There is little doubt which side will be the more streetwise when battle commences in the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario.
As ever against Argentina, the match will be won or lost up front. The betting suggests Jones’ experimental squad will come up short in that department, in what promises to be a bruising encounter. Grosvenor Sports are offering a Pumas win at 77/100, with England 51/50 to bag the victory.
For more Rugby Union odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s Rugby Union betting.
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