- Tom Wood ready for width offered by Pumas in Salta
- “Argentineans are going to bring fire and passion” – England captain
Tom Wood believes England are in the right shape to keep their ambition of back-to-back Test wins in Argentina for the first time in history alive with victory in the first Test in Salta this evening.
The England captain is deeply respectful of the passion and intensity the Pumas will pour into the contest on home turf but says the visitors are prepared for the width which is offered by Argentina’s drift defence.
And while England have the strike power to profit out wide – fly half Freddie Burns commented that he’d back Christian Wade and David Strettle in any one-on-one situations – Wood explained they must expect ferocity at breakdowns on the flanks.
“We’ve seen that Argentina are particularly ferocious in the wide channels, they’ve got a bit a drift defence so they allow you to come on to them a bit, lull you into a bit of false sense of security, offer you space in the wide channels and then try and mug you out there with heavily contested breakdowns,” he said.
“They pile a lot of numbers in and are really physical, but it’s something we’re aware of and prepared for. Also on our attacking breakdown we’ve got to have numbers in there, the first two guys in have to be really efficient to keep the ball moving so we don’t allow their big powerful forwards into the game.”
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Wood will lead England in a Test match for the first time when he wins his 19th cap and highlighted the importance of the breakdown all over the pitch at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.
After modestly adding that “I’ll just do my usual work” – which is regularly topping breakdown and tackle stats, chasing and harrying the opposition and snaring line outs – Wood outlined the back row balance offered by debutant open side Matt Kvesic and returning No.8 Ben Morgan.
He said: “The breakdown is hugely important, it’s an attritional battle, and dictates the way the game goes more often than not and if you get the ascendency in that area you generally have front foot ball and the run of the game.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with Matt, he’s a really talented young player. He’s a traditional No.7, very hard over the ball, very combative in the tight and he’s a good link man. Ben Morgan is getting back to his best like against Scotland, knocking people around, he’s a big strong ball carrier and we’re going to need him to set targets for us to get behind.”
England must make a better start than they did in the tour-opening 41-21 victory over a CONSUR XV in Montevideo, Uruguay on Sunday as the quality of the Pumas will not allow the retrieval of 31 unanswered first-half points.
Tight-head prop David Wilson is the only member of the match day 23 to have played a Test in Argentina before – a 24-22 defeat in Salta in 2009 – but Wood added that side are ready for a hostile atmosphere in a stadium with iron fences and barbed wire across the top.
“Davey Wilson is a man of few words, so we’ve not heard a lot from him about the atmosphere. But we’re expecting a hostile environment, the stadium is quite an intimidating place.
“We know what the Argentineans are going to bring in terms of fire and passion and desperation to play well for their nation. We’re prepared for that if it comes, but we’re making this game about us and our preparation, all the excitement within our camp about putting the talent we have out on the field.”