Farrell captains as Jones gets midfield wish – England-Argentina talking points

England and Argentina clash at Twickenham on Sunday in their last meeting before meeting in the group phase of next year’s World Cup.

Both sides will be looking to gain the edge before their Pool D showdown.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talks points heading into the Autumn Nation Series opener.

Farrell back at the helm

Eddie Jones has had to return to Owen Farrell as captain
Eddie Jones has had to return to Owen Farrell as captain (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Owen Farrell’s manner during the key captain’s responsibility of communicating with referees was influential in the decision to appoint Courtney Lawes skipper in his place. But with Lawes struggling with concussion, Eddie Jones has been forced to revert to the Saracens playmaker. Farrell is a talisman for England because of his combative nature on the pitch, but at times that fire has also seeped into his discussions with officials. The player himself understands the dynamic and intends adjusting his approach while retaining his competitive edge.

Jones gets his midfield wish

Manu Tuilagi is back for England
Manu Tuilagi is back for England (Adam Davy/PA)

For the first time, England are able to field their preferred midfield trio of Marcus Smith, Farrell and Manu Tuilagi. Injuries to Farrell and Tuilagi have previously scuppered Jones’ masterplan, but they will finally be unleashed against Argentina. The three of them offer the type of balance that eludes England when Tuilagi is sidelined, but with the powerful Sale centre restored to full fitness the hope is that he will provide the ball carrying penetration that allows the two playmakers to fulfil Jones’ attacking vision.

World Cup countdown continues

Only 13 matches stretch before England and the World Cup, offering Jones little time to finalise his preferred starting XV. As ever, a revolving door midfield remains the main area of uncertainty but the make up of the back row has also yet to be nailed down. The wing positions are in a state of flux and the policy at scrum-half is now to assemble three options who provide different skill sets. Greater clarity in selection would be preferable at this stage, albeit Jones has been hamstrung by injury.

Pumas on the prowl

Argentina finished bottom of the most recent Rugby Championship but there was a genuine sense of progress after they toppled Australia at home and New Zealand away. Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika took over earlier this year and masterminded a 2-1 series victory over Scotland in his first assignment before making the Pumas highly competitive against the southern hemisphere giants. Jones’ old sparring partner is making Argentina tick and hopes are building that they could make an impact at the World Cup.

Cheika’s juggling act

Michael Cheika has been juggling Lebanon and Argentina roles
Michael Cheika has been juggling Lebanon and Argentina roles (Mike Egerton/PA)

Cheika has experienced one of the most extraordinary build-ups to a match yet having been juggling his commitments as head coach of Lebanon’s rugby league team with overseeing the Pumas. This week he has split his time between the two camps and, following Lebanon’s quarter-final defeat by Australia on Friday night, he darted down to London to finalise preparations for Twickenham. He insists the transition will be seamless, but only Sunday’s outcome will decide if he bit off more than he can chew.