All rugby eyes will be on the Lions’ tour of New Zealand this summer, but make room in your weekend schedules for England’s two test trip to South America.
Here are five reasons why you should definitely sit down and watch what is likely to be an epic pair of international matches.
5) Argentina have just named their test squad and it’s strong
The words ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ are bandied about a lot at the moment, but these are two adjectives that certainly describe Argentina’s improving player base.
With the Pumas now regularly playing together under the guise of Super Rugby franchise The Jaguares rather than being spread out across Europe, coach Daniel Hourcade can name a powerful collection of players to take on what is essentially an England third string fifteen at best.
The latest squad features almost the entire team that lined up against England at Twickenham back in November last year, when a 14-man men in white side thwarted the visitors 27-14.
Forwards: Matías Alemanno, Felipe Arregui, Rodrigo Baez, Agustín Creevy (c), Santiago Garcia Botta, Ramiro Herrera, Tomás Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomás Lezana, Benjamín Macome, Pablo Matera, Julían Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti, Enrique Pieretto, Leonardo Senatore, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Backs: Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Bautista Ezcurra, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Martín Hernández, Martín Landajo, Manuel Montero, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Matías Orlando, Nicolás Sánchez, Joaquín Tuculet
4) Eddie Jones has named a test squad that is full of diamonds in the rough
The 28-14 win over a vastly more experienced Barbarians team – England had three players with over 40 caps, the Baa Baas had eight – highlighted the enormous potential of some of the national team’s youngsters. The likes of Ellis Genge, Will Collier, Charlie Ewels, Nick Isiekwe, Sam Underhill, Josh Beaumont, Alex Lozowski, Nathan Earle, Sam James and of course Tom Curry all impressed and in some cases sparkled with their performances.
But such excitement must be tempered when one looks at the sheer depth of talent available to the Pumas. If these players are to prove their mettle then two tests in Argentina against the Pumas’ full strength squad is exactly the kind of test they need.
Should England lose, many of these players will learn so much from their experiences. However, should they win then we could see the emergence of a number of players to take on the more senior players currently injured or away with the Lions.
Jones plans to rest a number of his stars in the autumn internationals, so the tail end of 2017 is going to be a thoroughly exciting time for all fans of the national team.
3) Argentina is one of the most hostile environments in rugby
Even the best teams struggle in South America. How could anyone forget Argentina’s 21-21 draw with New Zealand in 1985?
They’ve defeated South Africa and Australia in recent years and the Pumas have also won three matches against England at home: in 1990, 1997 and 2009.
For many of the English youngsters on the tour this will be the baptism of fire they need. Twickenham in the sunshine in front of your own fans will be worlds away from the humid, noisy and intimidating atmosphere that awaits the players in Argentina.
But England do have experienced older headers and some seriously impressive talent. Can they deliver the goods?
2) Eddie Jones’ latest squad has some excellent additions
Jones originally named his tour squad in the middle of April, but since then we’ve seen some fantastic performances from the Aviva Premiership semi-finals and final and of course Saracens’ second successive Champions Cup win.
The final squad he announced yesterday now includes Newcastle number eight Mark Wilson, Exeter Chiefs’ Don Armand and team mate Ollie Devoto. All three have been in excellent form for their clubs and are worthy additions to the squad.
1) England might actually have genuine opensides
Chris Robshaw filled the gap post-2011 and James Haskell has done a sterling job in the Eddie Jones era, but the Six Nations loss to Ireland in Dublin where the home side dominated the breakdown highlighted the need for a jackal-style player in the back row for the men in white.
Sam Underhill is a player of tremendous promise and one with a superb technical understanding for one so young, but there are also the Curry twins who could well add some much needed spice to England’s back row balance. Do not be surprised to see at least one of these trio starting for their country on a regular basis soon and making the seven shirt their own in time for Japan 2019.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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