England 21 Argentina 8: Eddie Jones in despair as lacklustre hosts fail to pummel Pumas

Mick Cleary
Nathan Hughes on the charge for England at Twickenham on Saturday - REUTERS

We might have expected a few lingering fireworks so soon after Guy Fawkes’ day but instead it was a bonfire of English vanities that blew up in Twickenham faces. 

England have been so bullish, so public about their desire to reach new standards and take their game to a different level in their quest to topple New Zealand as the No 1 ranked side in the world, that this jerky, fractured performance can only serve to remind everyone just how far they must go to match, let alone eclipse, the All Blacks. 

It was their worst display under Eddie Jones, lacking in vitality and cleverness. It was no surprise when the TV cameras caught the England head coach smashing his notepad into the coaches’ bench in frustration midway through the second half. The Rugby Football Union has just renewed its sponsorship with Guinness and this was suitably black stuff.

It was not until the 66th minute that England pulled clear with their second try scored by replacement Semesa Rokoduguni, although that was almost ruled out for a forward pass by Henry Slade, who had an underwhelming afternoon in the shirt normally worn by Owen Farrell. Such a stop-start game did not suit Slade’s style but the Exeter playmaker will be disappointed.

So staccato was the general play that you had to make sure that the markings still visible from the recent American Football matches here were not actually meant to be still in use. It was 10 metres forward, churn-and-go, infringement, error and ever on and on.

England have to quickly re-group for Australia are headed their way, a much tougher assignment. The return of a rejuvenated Farrell and Maro Itoje will bring much-needed devil. 

Eddie Jones, the England head coach, has some big decisions to make ahead of next weekend's Test Credit:  REUTERS

There were some upbeat tidings, the bullocking form of No 8 Nathan Hughes and the dogged application of prop Mako Vunipola. Anthony Watson was sporadically sprightly and although flanker Sam Underhill began well, he conceded a couple of penalties. 

England need a serious revving up before they take on the Wallabies.

It is not as if this was a vintage Argentina. In their most recent pomp of a couple of years ago, the Pumas would have presented a formidable challenge and would have been much closer on the scoreboard if they had not spurned 12 points in missing four penalty shots at goal. 

These days though Argentina are plucky rather than irresistible. True, they have been hardened by being constantly under the cosh in the Rugby Championship but with only one win in 12 months (against Georgia), they are far from their former exalted status, albeit they did deserve their late, scampering try from Nicolas Sanchez.

Argentina knew they had to fight for every inch of turf, heave hard at every scrum and contest every ball. That zeal needs fine-line decision-making. It did not happen like that. In the 22nd minute the Pumas’ full-back, Joaquin Tuculet, came clattering in as Mike Brown rose to take a high ball. It was not the most heinous mid-air collision but it was enough to see Tuculet dispatched to the sin-bin and Brown, who landed on his head, taken off for assessment.

Joaquin Tuculet was sin-binned for his challenge on fellow No 15 Mike Brown Credit: Getty Images

Brown is one of Jones’s go-to men, “the custodian” at the rear as he calls him, the preferred option in 19 of Jones’s 20 Tests in charge, the player who sets the tone. Brown did not reappear. He has had problems with concussion in the past, taking a terrible blow against Italy in Feb 2015 and missing the rest of the season.

England took advantage of their 10- minute superiority in numbers. Within two minutes they had scored their first try. Hughes has grown into international rugby, aware that his audition might only last as long as Billy Vunipola’s absence, effectively this November series. 

The Wasps back-rower is a different player to Vunipola, more dynamic, thrusting rather than churning through tackles. And it showed. Hughes was in the thick of the action from the first whistle, offering himself, smashing through the traffic. 

He has finally began to transfer his club form into the international arena. It promises to deliver significant things if his maiden try in the 23rd minute is anything to go by. With Argentina down to 14 men there was space out wide, where Hughes was lurking. All it needed was for someone to have the vision and skill to spot the possibility. 

George Ford during Saturday's match against Argentina Credit: Getty Images

There are few more alert and aware players on a rugby field than George Ford. The fly-half fizzed out a huge pass over the head of four players to Hughes. The No 8 reached, caught, juggled, held the ball in his right hand, steamed forward, swopped it to his left hand as he cut inside Emiliano Boffelli to touch down. It was a fabulous finish.

Where once there was a dearth of openside flankers, now there is a crop.

Underhill has won his way into the starting shirt on the strength of some commanding performances for Bath. Underhill is a glue player, always where the ball is. He is an implacable force in the tackle, going in low and nailing his man as he showed from the off when chopping down Argentina centre, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.

There was little clear-cut action through the game. It is rare that you crave substitutions being made for it often diminishes the spectacle. Yet so turgid and uneventful were proceedings that the game cried out for someone to grab it by the scruff of the neck. 

The only player who did that was Saracens’ Alex Lozowski, who made a lovely arcing break past Matias 

Alemanno four minutes after coming on for Jonathan Joseph in the 62nd minute. From there, England managed to recycle the ball, Slade eventually finding Rokoduguni on the wide outside, the Bath wing crashing over in the corner, Ford converting.

Argentina, though, were not to be quelled, Sanchez scoring in the 78th minute. A miserably low-key afternoon was then mercifully brought to a close.

4:59PM

Dylan Hartley speaks

"Plenty to work on. Congratulation to young Sam, great for him to win his first cap and to cap it off with a win."

"Ball in hand we just need to get into the right areas of the field and treasure the ball. We need to go up a level for Australia."

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4:58PM

Mixed emotions for England

Few grim faces down on the field, which in a way shows how far England have come.

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4:53PM

FULL-TIME - England 21-8 Argentina

Final passage of play then with Argentina the side trying to add another score. Launchbury knocks on and that will be that that.

England win then, although they were some way off their best. Their third win over Argentina this year, achieved thanks to tries from Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni and the boot of George Ford.

Better in the end from Argentina but it took them one extra long attack to really crack England's defence, failing to threaten otherwise.

A lot more needed from England however to defeat Australia next week.

4:50PM

79 mins - England 21-8 Argentina

No conversion from Sanchez, as Vunipola is named Man of the Match.

Don't lip-read this GIF of Eddie Jones, but it's excellent.

4:48PM

TRY SANCHEZ! England 21-8 Argentina

Argentina now over 25 phases! Surely this ends with a score.

Credit: SKY SPORTS

And on the 30th phase Sanchez darts over in the corner. Huge work-rate across the board and Argentina deserved that score, the skip pass from Bertranou catching England out as Sanchez slips past George and Daly.

4:46PM

75 mins - England 21-3 Argentina 

More slow, steady phases for Argentina without a lot to show for it. England's defence has seen plenty of action in this second half.

That's better, Argentina creeping over England's 22. Now five metres out, big tackles from Underhill yet again. What a shift from the openside.

4:43PM

71 mins - England 21-3 Argentina

Simmonds on now for his England debut, what a story that is. Argentina trying a catch-and-drive but England turn the maul over.

Flying Roko Credit: GETTY IMAGES

4:40PM

69 mins - England 21-3 Argentina

George and Genge both on and it shows, England's defence lifting the tempo as Argentina go backwards.

Half chance for Matera but the flanker is bundled out into touch.

4:37PM

TRY ROKODUGUNI! CONVERSION FORD! England 21-3 Argentina

Try given! Pass from Slade looked tight but after a review Rokoduguni gets his try. Number two for England and the Bath winger, whose cap is so long overdue.

Ford converts well from out wide and England are home now.

4:35PM

England TMO review

Break from Lozowski and England look to have scored through Rokoduguni, but the last pass by Slade is being checked...

4:34PM

66 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Missed again! Sanchez this time, so that's 12 points wasted off the tee by Argentina.

4:33PM

64 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Argentina not out of this yet, winning another penalty in England's half which Sanchez will try to convert. No pace in the game, which suits the visitors just fine.

That Hernandez pass...

4:32PM

Some game at Murrayfield

Few tries at Twickenham but look at that scoreline from Scotland.

4:30PM

62 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Turned over by England! Maul going nowhere, Creevy understandably fuming. England's chance to clear now with a scrum.

Care on for Youngs, Lozowski too for Joseph.

4:29PM

60 mins - England 14-3 Argentina  

Better from Argentina, a short burst from Iglesias down the blindside. They get a penalty and knock it into the corner.

What a pass this was from Hernandez...

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4:25PM

57 mins - England 14-3 Argentina  

Launchbury on for Kruis, Macome on for Argentina. Scrum penalty for los Pumas! Cole the culprit with his binding. Boffelli will take a shot at the posts... and misses! That's three attempts squandered now.

Eddie Jones here with the World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper genuinely over his shoulder.

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4:22PM

55 mins - England 14-3 Argentina  

No joy for England, the maul held before Creevy's stray hand knocks the ball loose. Good scrum from Argentina as Matera runs hand. 

Underhill now up to 13 tackles as Argentina kick long. They've done well to survive that spell of pressure.

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4:20PM

54 mins - England 14-3 Argentina 

Argentina penalised for angling in at the scrum, as England go to the corner. Quick catch and drive as Hartley breaks off, lots of tempo from the England skipper. Another penalty, back to the corner. England dialing up the pressure.

4:18PM

52 mins - England 14-3 Argentina 

Better from England, Vunipola again showing his value as a link player, before a poor pass from Slade sails into touch. Not his best. This isn't England's best either.

4:17PM

50 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Tell you what, Theresa May would love this 'strong and stable' approach to the second half from England. Few phases before Watson chips, the ball coming off an Argentina player for an England lineout.

Credit: RFU

4:15PM

48 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

After a couple of resets the ball gets away from the scrum, Slade hoofing it downfield. Ford collects Argentina's response - so much kicking, apologies - before Rokoduguni pulls off a circus catch, but lands in touch.

4:12PM

46 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Genge looks as though he's warming up. Farrell by the way is acting as the team's water boy today.

Argentina's turn to knock on, England scrum on the edge of their 22, as Hughes goes for a run. Youngs box kicks, knocked on by Boffelli. England scrum.

4:09PM

44 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Argentina eventually knock on, but a forward pass by Slade stops any chance of an England counter-attack. Scrum for the visitors.

England scrum-half Ben Youngs Credit: GETTY IMAGES

4:08PM

42 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

More consistency to this attack from Argentina, building the phases as they reach England's 22. England keeping numbers out of the ruck so Argentina kick, Watson doing well under the high ball before Ford clears.

4:06PM

Second half underway

No changes, just the replacement of Brown in the first half after that mid-air collision. Argentina with an early attack after England clear, the hosts' defence holding for now.

4:05PM

Stats so far

Those 'gainline success' figures really stick out.

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4:01PM

Sir Clive Woodward calling for more 'fluidity'

Which essentially means less of the knock-ons and more momentum for England's backs, who have been kept at bay for much of the first half.

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3:51PM

HALF-TIME - England 14-3 Argentina

Landajo knocks on at the base of the ruck, and that will be half-time. Not bad from England at all, although you sense there are tries out there to be taken in the second half to add to Hughes' opening score.

Underhill has been exceptional in defence and at the breakdown, with Watson looking sharp as well. Argentina's discipline and goal-kicking really hurting their chances.

Second half coming up.

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3:49PM

40 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Argentina jump across at the lineout, Kruis the guilty party, allowing los Pumas to clear.

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3:48PM

39 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Another England penalty but Youngs wants to lift the tempo, going quick. Argentina player down in the backfield before Slade's grubber... goes into touch. England warming up a bit.

3:46PM

38 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

England pounce on a loose pass and clear after a run from Hartley. Lineout 40 metres out from Argentina's line and a chance perhaps for a second try...

3:45PM

36 mins - England 14-3 Argentina

Kruis comes into the side of the ruck, allowing Argentina to clear. First half winding down; have to be honest, not a huge amount of atmosphere.

Credit: PA

3:44PM

PENALTY FORD! England 14-3 Argentina

Slithers it through just past the right-hand post. Good lead for England but their best rugby is still to come really, shaking off that rust.

3:42PM

33 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

Daly bundled into touch before Argentina clear their lines. England would love a score now to really keep Argentina down after those missed penalties. 

They get a penalty, Van der Westhuizen having a word with Creevy about no-arms tackles, Kremer guilty there. In fact, there was an early tackle on Slade, so the penalty mark moves closer up to the Argentina 22. Ford will have a shot.

3:39PM

31 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

Another ridiculous miss. Way to the left. Argentina should be down by two! Boffelli surely will take over.

Credit: REUTERS

3:38PM

30 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

Another penalty against England, this time for collapsing the maul. Corner again must be tempting but Hernandez will have a shot at another three points.

3:37PM

29 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

England penalised for not rolling away. Spot is on the halfway line, perhaps out of Boffelli's range. They go to touch.

3:35PM

27 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

Excellent scrum from Argentina and they win the penalty as England pop up.

Chance for Hernandez to cut the deficit... that is a stunning miss. Why not let Boffelli have another go? Bizarre. Gap stays at eight.

3:34PM

26 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

Off the restart England knock on through Vunipola. Big moment this for Argentina on the edge of England's 22.

3:33PM

24 mins - England 11-3 Argentina

No conversion from Ford, hitting the post again, but England in charge now with an eight-point lead.

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3:32PM

TRY HUGHES! England 11-3 Argentina

It was coming. Argentina's defence is stretched as England ship the ball wide to the big number eight, who juggles the ball well as England bisect a 5-on-3 thanks to Ford's cut-out pass. No stopping Hughes from there.

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3:29PM

YELLOW CARD TUCULET! 

Referee Westhuizen suggests Brown lands on his shoulder, so Tuculet gets a yellow instead of anything worse. England penalty and they kick to touch.

Word through that Brown is permanently off, so Rokoduguni is onto the wing, with Daly at full-back.

3:28PM

22 mins - England 6-3 Argentina

Not a lot of noise at Twickenham thus far. Crowd waiting for a spark. 

England clear, and then from the return kick Brown is taken out in the air and immediately is getting treatment. Tuculet with an aerial challenge and he has a chance to get the ball, but the way Brown lands... not great.

Credit: SKY SPORT

3:25PM

21 mins - England 6-3 Argentina

Free-kick to England at the scrum, but Hernandez strips the ball back from Lawes to give Argentina possession.

Creevy carrying hard up the middle... what can Argentina do here. Hernandez chips wide but the ball beats Tuculet into touch. England lineout in their 22.

3:24PM

20 mins - England 6-3 Argentina

Argentina win the lineout and get over halfway, before knocking on. Moroni looked promising there but errors - been a few of those so far - are stopping the momentum in this game.

England centre Jonathan Joseph Credit: GETTY IMAGES

3:21PM

18 mins - England 6-3 Argentina

England starting from a scrum on their own 22. Robshaw, Hughes and Lawes all involved before a Joseph grubber beats Watson into touch. Better though from the hosts.

3:19PM

16 mins - England 6-3 Argentina

Not the best clearance from Youngs, out on the full, but Argentina's subsequent attack is turned over. Underhill with a big tackle on Lavanini - he can really hit in defence.

3:19PM

PENALTY FORD! England 6-3 Argentina

Straight through. England back into the lead as Ford makes it two out of three.

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3:17PM

13 mins - England 3-3 Argentina

Argentina's scrum holds but then the passes backwards are loose, and Matera is penalised at the breakdown - number three for the visitors. Chance for Ford to restore the lead.

3:14PM

11 mins - England 3-3 Argentina

Hughes gets England going, big carry putting Argentina under some pressure. Half-break from Brown finds Watson in some space, England building gradually... before Hughes knocks on. First scrum coming up.

3:13PM

PENALTY BOFFELLI! England 3-3 Argentina

No problems about the distance. The breakthrough player of the year nominee slots it with ease and we're all square.

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

3:12PM

8 mins - England 3-0 Argentina

England's turn to concede a penalty, Hartley the culprit, which means Boffelli can tie things up.

3:10PM

PENALTY FORD! England 3-0 Argentina

Much better strike. England take the lead at the second attempt.

3:09PM

5 mins - England 0-0 Argentina

England a little flat so Youngs hoists it high, Daly chasing. Argentina ball, Landajo kicking now. Good pressure on Brown, no side really chancing their arm yet.

England penalty for sealing off. Ford will... take a shot at the posts.

3:07PM

3 mins - England 0-0 Argentina

Ford from about 45 metres out - those numbers by the way are NFL markings - and he cracks it onto the post. Argentina clear.

Credit: SKY SPORTS

3:04PM

2 mins - England 0-0 Argentina

Secured by Argentina who go through a few phases before Landajo clears with a box kick. Brown under it and England get a penalty for not releasing. Chance for a shot at the posts and Ford will have a shot.

3:03PM

Kick-off!

Tracksuits off, time to get cracking. Marius van der Westhuizen from South Africa is our referee.

Ford gets us underway.

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3:00PM

Anthems

Argentina up first, then England. Quick note that the visitors have not defeated England in a Test since June 2009 in Salta.

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2:57PM

The Last Post

Now ringing out around Twickenham as those in attendance remember the fallen.

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2:56PM

Here come the sides

Hartley and Creevy lead out their respective teams in front of a full house, 82,000 in attendance.

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2:54PM

England's team

The home pack by the way only has one change to the same eight that faced Australia this time last year. That man Sam Underhill. Home debut for him and a chance to nail down that seven shirt.

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2:52PM

'The third year is the most difficult'

Interesting to hear Eddie Jones mention this a couple of times to Sky Sports in the build-up. The first two years of his reign, save for the loss in Dublin to Ireland, has been practically perfect.

First test of that third year coming right up.

2:46PM

Stands filling up

Meaning we're almost there. Looking forward to watching Anthony Watson especially today. Worth remembering the England back is still only 23 but he already has huge experience and has been sharp for Bath so far this season.

His club team-mate Semesa Rokoduguni, named on the bench, really deserves some proper minutes too on his third cap.

Credit: PA

2:39PM

Scotland strike early

They're ahead against Samoa at Murrayfield. Live updates of that game here.

2:35PM

Eddie Jones and Japan

Highly recommend this piece from Tom Cary on Eddie Jones' relationship with Japan, who as you remember he famously led to a win over South Africa two years ago.

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2:32PM

Dylan Hartley wants England to 'make a statement'

Mick Cleary here on England's ongoing hunger for perfection, which is yet to wane despite their record over the last two years.

2:27PM

Scotland v Samoa...

...is underway, in case you need a more immediate rugby fix. Our man Rob Bagchiis on the case.

2:23PM

Argentina's Martin Landajo on conditions

"We are going to try and have more of the ball and attack them a lot. [The rain] suits them. In Argentina and we have sun and 30 degrees! This is better for them."

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2:19PM

The Home Nations - strong starters in November?

Not exactly. I've taken a look at how England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have fared in their autumn openers going back to 2006, and the numbers speak for themselves.

How Home Nations have performed in their first autumn Tests since 2006

2:10PM

Argentina's decline

While England are on an upward curve post-2015, Argentina have stumbled. Daniel Schofield looks at where things have gone wrong for los Pumas since they made the semi-finals.

Argentina captain Agustin Creevy Credit: GETTY IMAGES

2:08PM

Eddie Jones speaks

"It's all about producing greater depth in the squad. We just want to get better with each game. There are young guys coming through like [Sam] Simmonds who have really stood out for me.

"Argentina's pack will compete hard at the set-piece."

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1:59PM

Alternate strip for England

Quick snap of the kit England will be wearing today, which is designed to 'mask player movement'.

England's new alternate strip Credit: RFU

 

1:56PM

Underhill and Curry to drive England forward

No Tom Curry today for England, with his dislocated wrist ruling him out for 12 weeks, but in the long-term Telegraph columnist Maggie Alphonsi believes the two young guns can take England's breakdown play to another level.

Don’t forget that Underhill is 21 years old and Curry is 19. It is going to be really enjoyable to watch them battle for selection over the years.

When I played for England, I fought over the jersey with Heather Fisher and then Marlie Packer came along. I think that made the position very strong because we were all trying to earn the right to wear the jersey and then working even harder to keep it.

Michael Hooper and David Pocock took each other to different levels and, eventually, they were both picked for Australia at seven and eight. It’s important to have that battle. Jones wants competition. All of the boys are talking about how they don’t feel safe in their shirt, which is a perfect place for England to be.

1:54PM

England chasing perfection

For Telegraph columnist Will Greenwood, anything less than three wins this autumn would be a serious failure for England.

There’s no point denying it. England are the second best team in the world. They have won 21 of their last 22 matches.

They are at home. Ergo: they will expect to win all three games. And so they should. Call it arrogance if you like, but you ask Eddie, he won’t shy away from that. 

1:50PM

Welcome

Good afternoon everyone, live blog duty for myself with a number of Telegraph writers at Twickenham for the first of England's three autumn Tests this month.

Quick reminder that England have won 19 out of their 20 Test matches since Eddie Jones took charge at the start of 2016, a run that includes three results against los Pumas including the two-match tour this summer.

Hardly a shock then to see that England are favourites, particularly given that they have not lost at home since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Fire any thoughts over to @bencoles_ on Twitter or to ben.coles@telegraph.co.uk

Team news is as follows...

England

England have rested Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje. Red Rose head coach Eddie Jones had indicated he would stand down some of his British and Irish Lions due to their involvement in the summer tour to New Zealand and he has chosen to omit Farrell and Itoje from the match-day 23.

Henry Slade replaces Farrell at inside centre, holding off the challenge of Alex Lozowski who is named on the bench, and it is George Kruis and Courtney Lawes who are paired in the second row.

The openside duel has been won by Sam Underhill. Fellow rookie Tom Curry was originally named among the replacements but will now miss all of England's pre-Six Nations appointments because of a dislocated wrist.

Exeter's Sam Simmonds takes Curry's place on the bench.

England XV: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), H Slade (Exeter), E Daly (Wasps); G Ford (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); M Vunipola (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), G Kruis (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath), N Hughes (Wasps).

Replacements: J George (Saracens), E Genge (Leicester), H Williams (Exeter), J Launchbury (Wasps), S Simmonds (Exeter), D Care (Harlequins), A Lozowski (Saracens), S Rokoduguni (Bath).

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Argentina

Veteran Juan Martin Hernandez has been selected ahead of Nicolas Sanchez at fly-half as coach Daniel Hourcade opts for an experienced team.

There are four changes to the Argentina side that lost to Australia in their last Rugby Championship encounter in October, including the 35-year-old Hernandez's selection.

Santiago Garcia Botta comes into the front row in place of Lucas Noguera while Tomas Lavanini is back in the second row with Marco Kremer switching to flanker.

Ramiro Moyano returns after injury on the wing, with Matias Moroni moving inside to centre to replace Matias Orlando.

Argentina XV: S Garcia Botta, A Creevy, N Tetaz, M Alemanno, T Lavanini, P Matera, M Kremer, T Lezana, M Landajo, JM Hernandez, R Moyano, SI Gonzalez, M Moroni, E Boffelli, J Tuculet (all Jaguares).

Replacements: J Montoya, L Noguera Paz, E Pieretto, B Macome, L Senatore, G Bertranou, N Sanchez, S Cancelliere (all Jaguares).

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