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England expects another Argentine classic

With much of rugby focussing on the blundering escapades of the British Lions and their problematic build-up to next week’s first test against the All Blacks, England’s tour of Argentina looked set to go almost unnoticed. That is, before a raucous opener against Los Pumas in San Juan last Saturday saw Eddie Jones’ team steal a 38-34 victory with less than two minutes remaining.

A chaotic match, in which the lead changed hands no less than six times, was eventually cast England’s way thanks to Denny Solomona’s late try. The Rugby League convert hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory with some shocking defending, but ended up grabbing the headlines before Jones ruefully added that the Sale Sharks wing will be ‘doing some defensive work next week’.

The spotlight will shine a little brighter on the second and final test this weekend, with England fans back home expecting more of the same in terms of entertainment and result.

South Americans Hoping To Strike Back In Santa Fe

The Estadio Brigadier General, Estanislao Lopez, is known to most football fans as ‘El Cementerio de Los Elefantes’ – or ‘The Elephants Graveyard’. Its nickname derives from the fact that the hosts are local team CA Colon, who over the years have regularly beaten the best sides from Buenos Aires on their own turf – think Stoke on a Tuesday night in December.

It’s the venue for the second test, and Los Pumas would love nothing more than to down one of world rugby’s big beasts in the shape of England – especially after losing in such dramatic circumstances in San Juan last time out. Daniel Hourcade’s side from the first test was drawn entirely from the Jaguares team that plays in the Super Rugby southern hemisphere club competition, and that familiarity was supposed to be enough to see the hosts defeat an England team that featured ten players winning their first caps. Ironically, Argentina played as if they were strangers, with too many individual and team errors handing England plenty of scoring opportunities. Only the kicking of Nicolas Sanchez – and the occasional flash of quality from Emiliano Boffelli and Jeronimo de la Fuente – encouraged a partisan home crowd last week.

Grosvenor Sport make this a ‘your choice’ match up – which means they can’t split them in terms of price. However, I don’t see the second test panning out any differently from the first, even with Jones set to make changes to his starting line-up. It will be lively, with more than the odd mistake, and that’s exactly what most of the rugby viewing public want if last week’s reaction is anything to go by.

Ford Driven To Impress

Eddie Jones suggested that good performances on this tour of Argentina could go some way in deciding which players will be called into the next Elite Player Squad.

Few would argue that George Ford was the man of the match in San Juan. The Leicester Tigers-bound fly-half had arguably his best 80 minutes in an England shirt. His kicking was near-flawless, whilst his distribution was first class. He topped off a brilliant all-round display with a try and 23 points in total. Ford’s exclusion from the British Lions Tour was perhaps understandable (although up for debate), but why Joe Launchbury missed out is more of a mystery. The Wasps lock didn’t miss a tackle last week and carried the ball supremely well. After some excellent Six Nations displays, Launchbury continues to impress.

Of the debutants, Mark Wilson – with 16 tackles (the most) – and Tom Curry will have caught Jones’ eye. At 18 years old (now 19), the latter was the youngest newcomer since Jonny Wilkinson made his England bow in 1998. The Sale Sharks teenager started a little nervously but grew into the game and is a young man with bags of potential.

The future certainly looks bright for England.

Bet with Grosvenor Sport.

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