Autumn Nations Series: Five takeaways from England v Argentina as Pumas beat pedestrian Red Rose side

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Following a 30-29 victory for Argentina over England in the Autumn Nations Series, here’s our five takeaways from the match at Twickenham.

The top line

In a match played at times in torrential rain and on a saturated pitch, Argentina claimed their third big scalp of the 2022 calendar year with a brilliant display of precision rugby in difficult conditions, deservedly winning and shattering England’s Autumn Nations series at the very first hurdle. This match will go down alongside Twickenham 2006 and Salta 2009 as great days for Los Pumas and minor disasters for England.

Predictably, the peerless Emiliano Boffelli treated us to a brilliant display in the air, over the grass and, most importantly, off the tee, as he netted 25 points and scooted over for a brilliant first phase move off the top of the Argentinian line out.

For their part, England tried manfully, understandably trying to play narrow power rugby with a wet ball, but against one of the best back-rows and defensive centre partnerships in world rugby, the lack of gas, counterpoint of footwork and attacking IQ, they were simply beaten up on the gain line and outclassed intellectually.

Eddie Jones is now in a quandary; this squad was a line in the sand of selectorial loyalty in the face of calls for change and demands to pick the form players the Premiership. It is now the moment to act as the sands of time before the Rugby World Cup are fast disappearing.

The Boff

Make no mistake about it, player of match Boffelli is one of the very best rugby players in the world. He’s missed precisely two goal kicks in 16 Tests and his fluff today was only a result of Argentina’s slowness to get the kicking tee on!

But to label this icon as just a kicker does him a huge disservice. He dominated every aerial kick down his flank, he made yard after yard in contact, his defence was flawless and when given one sniff of the tryline he showed gas that the England wings on display can only dream of.

But he wasn’t the only hero in blue and white. Once again Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera and Juan-Martin Gonzalez were absolute rocks on the gain line, their physical presence and ability to stay in the fight causing chaos to England’s continuity. And in the back division, Santiago Carreras’ brilliant pick up off a wayward Farrell pass saw electric pace from Los Pumas’ outside half.

Argentina came to Twickenham with genuine expectations of pulling off a win; they leave south-west London with their reputation enhanced.

Diesel powered England

We’ve come to expect diesel powered rugby from Eddie Jones’ men but today the turbo charger blew within the first 10 minutes as they absolutely failed to inject any form of pace, accuracy or penetration into their attacking effort. The sheer predictability of England’s pass and crash game was astonishing given the riches they have in their wider squad and at their disposal elsewhere, and 13 turnovers conceded tell a story of sluggish inaccuracy against a world-class defence.

Sadly, Jones’ selectorial loyalty to a number of players in key positions is not assisting his cause, especially with only 12 Tests left between now and France 2023. He cannot continue with the pedestrian Ben Youngs at nine and the likes of the Vunipola brothers in the forwards.

The public are treated to a feast of running rugby every week in the Premiership yet the talent we see isn’t being harnessed. It’s now time to throw a few curveballs and reward form, not past glory.

In short, there’s a few England players living on their past mediocrity and it is now time for the winds of change to blow through the corridors of Twickenham.

In the narrows

The biggest issue that England have is their pace in the wide channels. Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell went well at times, but with Youngs at the base and with a pass that can be timed with a calendar these days, there’s absolutely no momentum in carry nor any ability to get the ball fast enough to the wings to get around good international defences.

As Eddie Jones said post match, ‘there’s always more room in a team for gas.’ In rugby terms gas can mean speed of thought or speed of foot and England need to improve in both areas. Jones admitted post match that he needs to go into Tests with a big six to compete at lineout time and he sees Jack Willis as a seven only. But Willis’s carrying abilities in the wide channels are ahead of any other back-row in England and he must now be given his chance against Japan next week.

Elsewhere, Val Rapava-Ruskin has conceded precisely one scrum penalty in the Premiership to date and is a far more legal and combative prop than others currently in the squad. Add into the equation the talents of Luke Northmore, Cadan Murley and Tom Pearson and we see that there’s options aplenty to explore should Jones choose to go looking.

Argentina’s day

In the post-match press conference, skipper Julian Montoya described his day as one of the most memorable of his career. Note, there was a pause and a careful use of the words ‘one of’ for the world-class hooker and his cohorts have seen off both the mighty All Blacks and the Wallabies this season.

He spoke powerfully of the pride in the pace and precision of his team, calling out Boffelli as the heartbeat of his side and a man that ‘when we look each other in the eyes I know exactly what he wants to do; he is flawless as a performer.’ With a world-class back five, two of the best defensive centres in the world and a prop of notable mobility in Thomas Gallo, Argentina are in a good place.

Los Pumas’ tour continues next week with a trip to Cardiff to take on beleaguered Wales. Right now, they’re red hot favourites to win and with Scotland to follow afterwards, Argentina might very well return home with their very own Triple Crown.

READ MORE: Brilliant Argentina stun England at Twickenham for historic win

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