- Wood and Baxter preview second Argentina Test in Buenos Aries
- "I would imagine they'll be hurting after last week" – Wood
With a number of contributing factors, including 75-cap great Augustin Pichot personally addressing the Pumas in the build up to the second Test in Buenos Aries, England are expecting a backlash from Argentina this evening.
But captain Tom Wood believes if Stuart Lancaster’s start the game with the same attitude, application and aptitude of the First Test in Salta they can withstand the expected onslaught and emerge as the first England team to win back-to-back Tests in Argentina.
England’s 32-3 win was their biggest margin of victory in Argentina and Wood knows that hurt will only add fuel to the emotional intensity intrinsically linked to the way Santiago Phelan’s side play the game, especially as the Northampton man considers England beat them at their own game last week.
“I would imagine they’ll be hurting after last week, they’re a very proud team and any team that takes a loss like that at home is going to be fired up to right the wrongs the following week,” said Wood, who will lead England for the second time at the Estadio Velez Sarsfield.
“They pride themselves on the set-piece, and we got into them there, and they pride themselves on their ball carrying and their offloading and we made strong tackles, so we’re expecting some more fire there.
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“But in all fairness to them I don’t think they played that badly, we just got out of the blocks in the first 20 minutes and that set the tone for the game. Our defence was very strong, we gave them nowhere to go and we’ve got to work really hard to reproduce that.”
While Pumas Head Coach Phelan has made five changes – including moving veteran Felipe Contepomi into the pivotal position of fly half – Lancaster has only made two changes to his match day 23 and picked the same pack which started in Salta.
Interim England Forwards Coach Rob Baxter “could not have asked much more” from his eight man unit in the opening Test and was delighted with their role in setting the tempo off turnover ball – which was England’s chief possession source at 30 per cent.
While relishing the upping of physicality expected from the hosts and concurring with Wood that the start is all-important, the Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby said England must make the game about them and that his messages to the pack are consistent.
He said: “The challenges I’ll be laying down to the forwards is exactly the same [as the first Test] –make sure you get the big carries and collisions in first and make sure it’s about England on the front foot and not about trying to absorb pressure from Argentina.
“If it’s a challenge at the breakdown, we’ve got some good breakdown players as well. We’ve got to make our set-piece the dominant factor again, we’ve got to make our defence about winning the collisions.”
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Marland Yarde makes his Test debut on the left wing at 21 and Kyle Eastmond starts for the first time at inside centre after impressing off the bench last weekend. While the immediate aim is to complete the summer objective of four wins from four games, as England continue to evolve there is a sense of pride in Wood that young players can arrive on the international stage and produce their exciting Aviva Premiership form.
Mindful of Lancaster’s overarching aims to imbue experience in young players and foster genuine competition for places across his squad, Wood added: “That’s testament to the management, the structure, the framework of the set-up.
“The group is full of young, enthusiastic lads who are desperate to do well for each other. They accommodate each other, look after each other and then we’ve got some leaders that hopefully offer a bit of composure and calm in the heat of the battle.
“But these lads are picked on form – they’ve done well in the Premiership and they’re given the forum here to reproduce it. Everyone’s taken their chance so far. But we know this is going to be the biggest Test of all – and rightly so.”
The feature that most accelerates the development of teams is wins. And Wood is intent on finishing this season as a winner.