Friday, September 9, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 - Argentina vs England Preview

Rugby World Cup 2011 kicks off in several hours with hosts New Zealand playing against Tonga at Auckland´s Eden Park. But, make no mistake, the opening match is to be little more than a showpiece of South Pacific rugby and culture as the All Blacks are unlikely to have any troubles in winning by a huge margin. Day two is to have four matches with Scotland vs Romania, Fiji vs Namibia, France vs Japan and the big one, Argentina vs England. The match between Los Pumas and 2003 World Cup Champions, England is going to put Dunedin on the map. The game was to be played in Christchurch at the recently upgraded stadium but had to be moved as the city suffered a devastating earthquake in February that has prevented it from hosting any matches at Rugby World Cup 2011. Christchurch´s loss is Dunedin´s gain as the new Otago Stadium is to host the biggest match of the opening weekend.

Argentina and England have played sixteen matches with the first taking place in 1978 as the sides drew 13-13 in London. In total England have won ten matches, Argentina four and there have been two drawn games. England´s superiority has faded in recent years with Argentina winning two of the last four matches between the sides including winning 25-18 at Twickenham in 2006. Since Rugby World Cup 2003 Argentina have been able to match England just like they have most sides. But Argentina´s first win over England in the professional era was in 2007 as Argentina recorded its biggest win over England in history with a margin of 20 points as the South American´s won 33-13. Curiously, one week earlier England had won 46-20 and both matches were played in Buenos Aires. The sides have met only once ever in a Rugby World Cup match. It took place as a pool match in 1995 with England coming from behind to win 24-18 en route to winning the Pool which also included Italy and Samoa.

The two sides know each other very well, having played three international matches in 2009 and also due to the fact that Argentina has a number of players in England´s elite level rugby competition, the Aviva Premiership. Of Argentina´s starting XV two players currently play their rugby in the Aviva Premiership. Wingers Horacio Agulla and Gonzalo Camacho play for the Leicester Tigers and the Exeter Chiefs. While five other players in the starting XV have previous experience playing at the highest level of English rugby. Argentina have eight servivors from the side which faced England in November 2009 while England have four.

Key Match-Cup

This game has some tremendous contests in most positions. The young Juan Figallo has been selected over Martín Scelzo and will face the highly-regarded Andrew Sheridan. The battle between Rodrigo Roncero and Dan Cole will be curical as both are known for their scrumagging skills and workload, espeically in rucks. But perhaps the battle of the veteran hookers of Mario Ledesma vs Steve Thompson is to be the crucial frontrow battle. Both players are no-nonsense hookers who lack the pace of several years ago. Neitehr side is playing with fetcher, as both have gone for two players who are regulars at 8 with Juan Fernández Lobbe and Juan Leguizamón facing Nick Easter and James Haskell. The battle between of Leguizamón vs Haskell looms as key given that each team is likely to be stronger in one of the two other backrow positions. The defensively sound Gonzalo Tiesi will have an interesting battle with the highly regarded Samoan Samu Tuilagi who has decided to play for England. While the inside centre position features a playmaker who is naturally a flyhlaf facing a natural outside centre in Santiago Fernández vs Mike Tindall. This battle should be one of the most important of the match as should that of the former Toulon teammates´ flyhalf battle of Felipe Contepomi vs Johnny Wilkinson´s with the players different styles likely to be key to how the game unfolds. The biggest battle of the match, however, could well be between the fullbacks as Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga takes on the breakout English player, Ben Foden. Both are outstanding counter attackers and both have quality wingers to work with.

Prediction

It is a match that could go either way and is not expected to be a try fest. Argentina will be trying to slow play down and should be highly competitive in the scrum, lineout and with mauls. England will be looking to get the upperhand by engaging its large centres against its smaller opponents. England´s back-three have been on form in 2011 with Ben Foden and Chris Ashton both being highly impressive. Marttin Johnson´s decision of playing tweo large centres could make the wingers more or less dangerous depending on Argentina´s defensive patterns. Games between the sides over the past eight years have not involved many tries and this match is not likely to either. Either side can win but the choice of dropping Ben Youngs and Toby Flood is likely to take a lot away from England as an attacking side. Argentina to win by 3 points.

History

October 14 1978, England 13-13 Argentina, London
May 30 1981, Argentina 19-19 England, Buenos Aires
June 06 1981 Argentina 6-12 England, Buenos Aires
July 28 1990 Argentina 12-25 England, Buenos Aires
August 04 1990 Argentina 15-13 England, Buenos Aires
November 03 1990 England 51-0 Argentina, London
May 27 1995 England 24-18 Argentina, Durban. (Rugby World Cup)
December 14 1996, England 20-18 Argentina, London
May 31 1997, Argentina 20-46 Argentina, Buenos Aires
June 07 1997, Argentina 33-13 England, Buenos Aires
November 25 2000, England 19-0 Argentina, London
June 22 2002, Argentina 18-26 England, Buenos Aires
November 11 2006, England 18-25 Argentina, London
June 06 2009, England 37-15 Argentina, Manchester
June 13 2009, Argentina 24-22 England, Salta
November 2009, England 16-9 Argentina, London

Argentina

1 Rodrigo Roncero
2 Mario Ledesma
3 Juan Figallo
4 Manuel Carizza
5 Patricio Albacete
6 Julio Farias
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón
8 Juan Fernández Lobbe
9 Nicolás Vergallo
10 Felipe Contepomi (Captain)
11 Horacio Agulla
12 Santiago Fernández
13 Gonzalo Tiesi
14 Gonzalo Camacho
15 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga

Reserves
16 Agustín Creevy
17 Martín Scelzo
18 Mariano Galarza
19 Alejandro Campos
20 Alfredo Lalanne
21 Marcelo Bosch
22 Juan Imhoff

England

1 Andrew Sheridan
2 Steve Thompson
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Courtney Lawes
6 Tom Croft
7 James Haskell
8 Nick Easter
9 Richard Wigglesworth
10 Jonny Wilkinson
11 Delon Armitage
12 Mike Tindall (Captain)
13 Manu Tuilagi
14 Chris Ashton
15 Ben Foden

Reserves

16 Dylan Hartley
17 Matt Stevens
18 Tom Palmer
19 Tom Wood
20 Ben Youngs
21 Toby Flood
22 Matt Banahan

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