BAGSHOT, ENGLAND – England coach Eddie Jones has challenged his players to kick on from their summer series victory in Argentina and show they are continuing to evolve when they face the Pumas for the fourth time in 13 months on Saturday.
England, without a host of players on British and Irish Lions duty, won two high-scoring but close games in Argentina in June and, having beaten them 27-14 at Twickenham last November, has now won the teams’ last eight meetings.
The Pumas have won only one of their nine tests this year, and that was against Georgia.
So they arrive at Twickenham for the first of England’s three November matches very much as outsiders, so much so that Jones has felt able to rest two of his best players — Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje — with their long-term welfare in mind.
Jones has never made any secret of the fact that every match and every selection he makes is all part of the journey toward the 2019 World Cup in Japan and at this midway point in his four-year contract he is looking for evidence of progress.
“We won the games in the summer but we want to be better and evolve, we want to be a different team — we have to be,” he told reporters after naming his team on Thursday. “So at the start of the game we need to set the standard and tone — which starts up front with that battle between the big guys for the ball. We are quite clear how we want to play our game on Saturday.”
Argentina has traditionally been a strong scrummaging side but it has struggled to impose itself in that area, and most others, during a tough couple of years since the World Cup.
Jones, however, said he expected a lift in performance from the occasion of facing England in front of 82,000 fans at Twickenham. “They’re coming off the back of not a good season and the coach and the players are under pressure,” he said. “But they know that if they beat England at Twickenham their whole season turns round and everyone will be wanting to buy them a beer and a steak.”
In the absence of Farrell, Jones has gone for Henry Slade — who played at 13 in both tour games in Argentina — at inside center, with George Ford retained at flyhalf.
Slade has been around the England set-up since before the 2015 World Cup without ever being able to regularly force his way into the starting lineup, and Jones says this is a great opportunity for him to show his progress.
“He’s got nice feet, good balance, a good head on him, got some speed, courage, everything’s there,” he said of the Exeter player.
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