Mario Ledesma - Argentina

Mario Ledesma will make Eddie’s men fight for every point

IF the Argentina side which take on England on Saturday are lacking anything by comparison with the team that got to the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago, it is a bit of fizz and pace in the back three.

Most teams can also do with plenty of powerful backrow carriers, and while captain Pablo Matera fits the bill, he is so frequently the main option for the Pumas that England should see him coming long enough to line him up.

That is why it is surprising that Argentina seem to apply a double standard when it comes to bringing overseas-based players into a squad which is drawn almost entirely from the Jaguares side that lost the Super Rugby final to the Crusaders.

While Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has included two fly-halves from the French Top 14 in Nicolas Sanchez (Stade Francais) and Benjamin Urdapilleta (Castres), he has at the same time refused to consider either Juan Imhoff of Racing 92, or his fellow winger Santiago Cordero, who moved from Exeter to Bordeaux-Begles.

They were Argentina’s most dangerous strike runners at the 2015 World Cup, and both have been in sharp form for their clubs.

 Another exiled Argentine surplus to requirements is the dynamic Toulon No.8 Facundo Isa, who could have worked in tandem with Matera to meet fire with fire in combating Billy Vunipola.

Ledesma said he was not happy with Argentina’s second-half fall off against Tonga yesterday, but neither was he overwhelmed by England’s 35-3 win against the Pacific Islanders last weekend.

Ledesma commented: “I was surprised by Tonga’s scrum. I thought England would visibly dominate, and Tonga held firm.”

What England should not underestimate is the former Argentina hooker’s intention to use everything at his disposal to mirror Tonga’s attempts to bring them grinding to a halt up front.

Argentina rugby
Lineout maul: Argentina pose a threat to England at the set piece, with Ledesma the mastermind behind Australia’s pack driving them to the World Cup final four years ago. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

His only problem is that Argentina’s set-piece is a mixture of good and bad. The line-out is a very efficient launchpad – and it is clear from their success in scoring two driving line-up tries against the French, and another two against Tonga, that England’s maul defence will face a stern examination.

However, where England could turn the tables is at the scrum, where Argentina’s traditional strength has been diminished by a decision to depower age-group scrums to the extent that it is now an Achilles heel.

Set against that Argentina are well organised in defence, as you would expect from a virtual club team which has trained together all year. This teamwork is also evident in good technique at the tackle, enabling them to be effective at retaining their own ball at the breakdown and challenging consistently on opposition ball.

Eddie Jones may have the greater firepower at his disposal, but Argentina are a well-coached side with staying power – and that means they will make England work for every point.

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