For all Eddie Jones’ men have impressed since the summer, their first real test since the Six Nations approaches this Saturday against Argentina. A fixture against France awaits, but for now England are concentrating only on the task in hand.
Following their capitulation in 2015, and tendency to let leads slip since, one can never be certain with England these days. Their players however, in typical English fashion, seem to be carrying a belief that borders on arrogance.
Speaking this week, Kyle Sinckler acknowledged the threat posed by Argentina, “we are under no illusion it is going to be a really tough game,” Sinckler said. “They are playing for their lives.” However, Sinckler went on to express his confidence in England’s forward “tank” and their ability to overwhelm any opponent.
There is a palpable sense that Eddie Jones’ side are reverting to the archetypal English team, stressing the traditionally successful ingredients of arrogance and aggression.
“One of the first things when I got into camp was the English DNA. It is something we put massive emphasis on as a forward pack,” Sinckler said. “It just gets our game going when our tank – our maul and our scrum – get going. We get into a good flow and a good rhythm. It’s something, especially in the first 20-30 minutes, we always try to get our teeth stuck into. Eddie is always on to us as a pack to assert ourselves through our scrum.”
The walking, talking embodiment of this game plan is England’s linchpin at number 8, Billy Vunipola. Like Sinckler, he is under no illusions that Saturday’s encounter will prove difficult and is conscious that England must back up their reputation with a statement performance.
“Our destiny is in our own hands still and we have to put down a marker, not for anyone else but for ourselves as a team,” Vunipola said. “We have talked a lot about it but talking is different to doing.”
However, this is exactly the kind of encounter the Argentinians, lead by the totemic Matera and gnarled ex-captain Agustin Creevy, relish. Creevy, a player with the physicality to match England, has been making headlines himself this week, suggesting England play boring rugby. Yet there is only room for the hooker on the bench.
“I think sometimes it’s boring but it’s good for England, and it works. Next Saturday is going to be like a war, it’s like a final for us.”
This is a charge roundly rejected by his opposite number Jamie George, “in my opinion I don’t think it’s very justified. I’m sure he’s just trying to rattle us a bit. He’s more than welcome to try.”
Come Saturday, when Creevy appears around the 50/60 minute mark, you can be sure he will indeed be trying to rattle England, and his clash with George promises to be fascinating, and loaded with significance. Whether or not the Argentinian pack can match, or even dominate England up front, will surely determine this clash.
Argentina team to face England E Boffelli; M Moroni, M Orlando, J de la Fuente, S Carreras; B Urdapilleta, T Cubelli; N Tetaz Chaparro, J Montoya, J Figallo, GP Pagadizabal, T Lavanini, P Matera (capt), M Kremer, JO Desio.
England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, B Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Kruis; Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.
Written by Joe Ronan