Eddie Jones predicting 'slug-a-thon' against Argentina
Eddie Jones predicts England will face a battle in Santa Fe on Saturday – a far cry from the first skirmish against Argentina last week.
It is apt, then, that the stadium for the second and final Test is named after Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez – a 19th century freedom fighter who combatted the British invasion of Buenos Aires and then Spanish colonial rule.
England's 38-34 victory in the dry heat of San Juan last Saturday gave Jones a flavour of the future. Ten debutants impressing, the youngsters stealing it late.
Eddie Jones has predicted a 'slug-a-thon' for his England team against Argentina on Saturday
In the first Test, England beat their opponents 38-34 in the dry heat of San Juan last week
But Jones knows a 2-0 series win would taste even sweeter; on the humid banks of the Rio Santa Fe his thirst is yet to be quenched.
'I think it might be a bit of a slug-a-thon,' he said.
'It is very rare you get two games the same. It is like drinking a beer, the first beer never tastes the same as the second beer and the third beer never tastes the same as the second one.
'Rugby is the same. The second game is generally never like the first game. If the first game has been open the second game has been tighter. We are prepared for both – we have got a good attitude in our team, we have made a few changes to have a slightly stronger team and feel well equipped to handle the occasion.'
Those changes are three-fold. Chris Robshaw adding experience and guile in the back-row, replacing Mark Wilson, Sam Underhill making his debut at No 7 in place of the 'battered and bruised' Tom Curry – who could have played but was given a break – and Piers Francis, so electric off the bench last time, in for Alex Lozowski at centre.
Chris Robshaw is one of three England players set to come into the team in Sante Fe
Francis, who sacrificed playing for the Auckland Blues against the Lions to make his England bow, has impressed Jones – he revels in those who have had to fight for their careers.
Francis was rejected by Saracens for being too small, then played for Edinburgh and Doncaster between stints in New Zealand.
'You look at his pathway, he has really had to battle it out,' Jones added.
'There is a fair bit of desire about him.' A similar tale to Underhill – he left Gloucester in 2015 and found his niche with the Ospreys while studying for an Economics degree. At 20 he will win his first cap.
The grafters will have to work hard to stay there. Even before the result of the series is known this tour has been a success. Jones has found another dozen who can cope with Test rugby, expanding his World Cup selection pool to over 60 players.
With 30 injured, banned or on the Lions tour, and 32 here in Argentina, Jones has some headaches to come.
England captain Dylan Hartley poses for a picture alongside Argentina's Agustin Creevy
'We don't just have numbers, we have very good players in those positions, from every position, from one to full-back,' said Robshaw – not envious of his boss' future dilemmas.
Captain Dylan Hartley agreed: 'English rugby is in a very strong place at the moment,' he said after England's grand welcome here.
This is only the third Test to be played in Santa Fe and on Thursday night more than 200 people crammed into the beer garden next to the city's brewery for an official press conference with Pablo Farias, a government minister, Jose Corral, the city's mayor, Jorge Bruzzone, president of Santa Fe rugby, Daniel Houcarde, the Pumas coach, Augustin Creevy, the captain, Hartley, Jones and the British Ambassador Mark Kent all giving speeches.
The English guests were handed gifts – a selection of jams, a chopping board and knife, pate and bags of on-brand beers. It was all very statesmanlike until Julio Clement, a Santa Fe-born hooker who was in the Argentine 1987 World Cup squad said to Hartley: 'We wish you luck until kick-off. Then it's Puma time.' Let battle commence.
Jones and his team were handed gifts like jam and beer at their press conference on Thursday
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