By Alan Dymock
WINNING TESTS is one thing, but to do it with young, exciting players is another.
For the second Test against Argentina, Stuart Lancaster has selected an explosive and sprightly backline with Freddie Burns, Marland Yarde, Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph and Christian Wade all in the mix.
England won 32-3 in the Test against Argentina last week. In that game there was 29-year-old David Strettle on the left wing and Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre. The winger has been cast aside for debutant Yarde and with Twelvetrees off to Australia to become a Lion, Lancaster has opted to throw inexperienced league-convert Eastmond in to partner Joseph.
The moves are bold, but with a pack that is able to galumph into and around a Pumas’ pack missing several key players there is scope for Lancaster to dispatch a few eager younger backs.
The inclusion of Strettle was intriguing in the last Test, but now that Lancaster knows the likes of Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler, Ben Morgan and Tom Wood can handle their Argentine counterparts and Billy Vunipola can come in off the bench to skittle whichever opposition remain standing, the coach can jettison the older winger and bring in Eastmond as an inside centre without fear.
This is not to say that the Pumas are an easy side to overcome or that England’s kids are the world-beaters just yet.
Argentina have no Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe or Juan Imhoff, Marcos Ayerza or Patricio Albacete, Juan Martin Hernandez, Agustin Creevy or Lucas Amorosino. They have deliberately played a “development” side, like England, as they rest Europe-based players before the Rugby Championship.
This certainly makes them weaker, and with national hero Felipe Contepomi stepping in to play fly-half, despite having already retired from club rugby, the team are only just patched together.
With the wily Contepomi there is always a chance, though, and with tested but unattached players like centre Gonzalo Tiesi and utility forward Julio Faras Cabello having more quality than the phrase “second-string” and the lack of employers would suggest, this second Test should not be a walkover.
If it is, Lancaster and his lieutenants should be praised for getting the kids to perform in foreign climes. Even if it took him a Test to pluck up the courage to go completely to the crib…