England travel to Buenos Aires for the second and final test of their tour of Argentina. Following on from the convincing 32-3 victory last week, Stuart Lancaster and his team will be looking to finish the tour in style after a lacklustre second half performance in Salta. England’s last visit to Buenos Aires was in June 1997 where, coincidentally, in the second of a two-test series, Jack Rowell’s side went down 33-13 to their Argentinian counterparts. However, Santiago Phelan’s side will have to produce a phenomenal performance to repeat history judging by their outing last week.
Stuart Lancaster has made two changes to his starting line-up which sees London Irish wing Marland Yarde earn his first cap while Kyle Eastmond makes his first start, filling the space left by Lions-bound Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre, after earning his first cap from the bench last week. Yarde has benefited from David Strettle’s sloppy performance in Salta and looks to provide a significant threat out wide while fellow wing Christian Wade will look to build on his impressive test debut, retaining his place in the number 11 shirt as this wide pairing provides a mouth-watering prospect for England fans.
The forwards are unchanged, unsurprising given the dominance England enjoyed at the set-piece last week. Another player looking to build on a good debut performance, Matt Kvesic stays at openside flanker and will look to repeat the tally of tackles he amassed last week, making no fewer than 20 and missing none last week. Some may be frustrated with Lancaster’s lack of rotation from the team in the previous fixture with the likes of Ben Foden perhaps deserving a start after his great late-season form and eye-catching cameo last week and Billy Vunipola’s hattrick against CONSUR XV and try-scoring debut appearance in Salta but he expects Argentina to ‘come back very strongly’ after their turgid performance in the first test and appears unwilling to risk drawing the series.
Player to watch: Freddie Burns
Stuart Lancaster will be eager to see his team maintain the same level of performance for the full 80 minutes after England’s tempo seemed to drop off after break in Salta last week. The man tasked with ensuring this is achieved is Freddie Burns. The Gloucester man had a good game in the first test but his game management will be under scrutiny more than ever Saturday night, particularly in the absence of club teammate Billy Twelvetrees. While his talent is clear for everyone to see, this is the perfect stage for Burns to show he has the mettle required for test level.
The Pumas have made five changes to the side that were so comprehensively out-gunned in Salta last weekend. Guillermo Roan, Rodrigo Báez, Julio Farías, Gabriel Ascárate and Belisario Agulla all come into the starting XV, while stalwart captain Felipe Contepomi moves infield to fly-half to partner Martin Landajo at half-back.
Once again there is a long list of absentees (21, to be precise) all being rested for the upcoming Rugby Championship after long seasons. Felipe Contepomi will, once again, take much of the responsibility for getting his team going, and there were times last week when his frustration with the team was obvious. He will have been working hard in training to make sure there are fewer sloppy errors this time out.
Belisario Agulla, younger brother of Bath winger Horacio, is a potentially lethal finisher and his battle opposite England new boy Marland Yarde will be fascinating. Both are raw, but both possess a lot of talent. Aside from Contepomi, the only player with any recognisable experience is centre Gonzalo Tiesi, who will be familiar to Quins fans.
Player to watch: Julio Farias Cabello
Fans of London Welsh will know all about this man. An abrasive blindside/lock, he made intermittent appearances for them after signing in February. Whilst he couldn’t quite drag them away from relegation, there were glimpses of the talent that convinced Lyn Jones to sign him. He was an ever present in the Pumas’ inaugural Rugby Championship campaign last season, and will be hoping to impress and gain a spot in their squad again this year.
If England can repeat their first half performance in Salta and maintain it across the duration of the match then they should overcome what could be a wounded animal in Argentina. The set piece will be key once again and if last week is anything to go by, England will triumph. England by 15.
By Rich Elkins