With England missing a whole host of players to Lions duty, coach Eddie Jones can still name a mightily impressive starting lineup to take on the Pumas in two Tests this summer.
1. Ellis Genge
Leicester powerhouse Genge has struggled to build on his fledging international career with Lions duo Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola ahead of him in the pecking order, plus the reliable older head of Mutt Mullan preferred in key fixtures for the men in white. Yet this tour could prove to be the Tiger’s coming of age as a Test player against a powerful Pumas pack.
2. Dylan Hartley (c)
Hartley was naturally disappointed to miss out on Lions selection, but he is an outstanding leader and will be determined to prove to Warren Gatland and his coaches exactly what they are missing out on. Plus Jones has dangled the carrot of 2019 in front of the Northampton hooker’s nose recently in the press.
3. Will Collier
With England missing two tightheads to Lions duty in Dan Cole and Kyle Sinckler, and with Paul Hill now ruled out of the tour with an ongoing neck problem, Harlequins’ prop Collier emerges from the selection shadows and is likely to earn his first cap against the Pumas. He will bring a solidity to the front row that will be needed in the white hot intensity of Argentina.
4. Joe Launchbury
There was uproar when Wasps’ quiet giant Launchbury was left out of the Lions squad, but Gatland’s loss is Jones’ gain and the England second rower will need be pivotal to the country’s chances of success in South America. Plus good performances against the Pumas and just one Lions injury could see the lock flying off to New Zealand.
5. Charlie Ewels
When you’ve got Kruis, Itoje, Launchbury and Lawes ahead of you you’re always going to struggle to get caps, but Ewels can grab his chance in the summer and prove he deserves to push the aforementioned quartet for a starting spot.
6. Chris Robshaw
The most underrated player in international rugby and recently name-checked by Eddie Jones as his generation’s Richard Hill, Robshaw was sorely missed by his country during his recovery from a long-term injury, but with the Harlequins back rower sorely disappointed with missing out on a Lions call-up, the matches against Argentina can prove a timely reminder to those in New Zealand exactly what he brings to the party.
7. Sam Underhill
There’s no denying the British press love to hype up young talent across every major sport, but what Bath’s new signing Underhill has been gifted in hype he matches with intelligence and a determination to improve.
He might not quite be the messiah England are looking for at openside, but he certainly looks like the nearest thing the country has to a genuine number seven.
8. Nathan Hughes
Hughes has steadily improved for his adopted nation since making his debut back in 2016 and the Argentina tour offers him another chance to solidify his position as England’s number two choice number eight and edge closer to the standards of the world-class Billy Vunipola.
9. Danny Care
So often pigeonholed as an impact replacement – or indeed ‘finisher’ – Care has found himself behind Ben Youngs in Jones’ scrum half pecking order for most of his reign. However, these two Tests mean the natural attacking talents of the Harlequins number nine can come to the fore, and the sunny climes of South America should suit his strengths.
10. George Ford
Somehow new Leicester signing Ford has ended up becoming the Marmite player of English rugby, with fans strongly divided over the diminutive fly-half’s spot in the team. However, what he lacks in physicality he more than makes up for in vision and much of England’s best plays have been fed off Ford. He will relish the chance to open up the Pumas’ defensive line and offer up opportunities to the impressive array of pace, power and footwork in the team’s backline.
11. Jonny May
This writer believes it was once Albert Einstein that claimed May + Space = Electricity, and if you gift the Gloucester winger an inch he will take a mile. A Lions call-up still beckons if the side suffer any injuries.
12. Henry Slade
Jones prefers a playmaker at twelve, and with Farrell and Te’o absent this is an ideal opportunity for Exeter’s much vaunted utility back to cement an England squad place as an inside centre.
13. Sam James
With Joe Marchant recently ruled out of the tour, Sale Sharks centre James has a chance to earn his first cap this summer. James is perhaps not yet quite in the same bracket as the likes of Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o or Elliot Daly, but he is certainly a solid enough player who will love being able to combine with Ford and Slade.
However, Jones could opt to move Slade out to 13 and look at someone such as Lozowski or Mallinder at 12.
14. Nathan Earle
Jones has talked of wanting to develop more power in his back line, and Earle provides just that. At around 6 foot 1 and almost 16 stone the Saracens winger offers something different to Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Elliot Daly and others.
15. Mike Brown
England’s most capped fullback will almost certainly continue to start for his country against the Pumas, but he will be under pressure from the likes of Alex Lozowski.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena