England vs. Argentina: 6 Things We Learned

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England vs. Argentina: 6 Things We Learned
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A win that looks a little better on paper than it did in real time makes it two from two for England, but after their first half dominance, it should have been so much better.

Here's what we learned this week.

 

Chris Ashton–time for a rest

Forget the quality of the scramble defence. A wing in form would have put the first chance away that Chris Ashton failed to finish off.

He scored a walk-in on 33 minutes, but the TV replays suggested that even with all the time in the world, he nearly slid into touch before grounding the ball properly. These are signs that the Saracens man is so low in self-belief at the moment that he should be stood down.

Had Christian Wade been fit, he would have started this match, but Stuart Lancaster now has a dilemma. With the New Zealand All Blacks in town next weekend, does he stick with the man short of form but long on experience, or does he give Wade the shirt if he is passed fit?

Ashton did his other bits and pieces competently, and there is a question mark over Wade's defensive positioning that could make him too much of a risk against the best attack in world rugby. You'd suspect the former rugby league man will get one more chance.

 

Pumas scrum still a potent weapon

No matter the lack of quality elsewhere in the side, Argentina possessed an outstanding scrummage.

The from row of Marcos Ayerza, Eusebio Guinazu and Maximiliano Bustos got on top of England in the first half, and when Alex Corbisiero came on at the break, his first scrum ended in a free kick to the Pumas as well.

Despite their set piece functioning so well, it has to be said…

 

David Rogers/Getty Images

Argentina have gone backwards

The Pumas’ lack of depth in key positions has seen them slump from their wonderful World Cup six years ago to a side desperately short of quality.

Daniel Hourcade has a huge project on his hands to drag a proud rugby nation back to their glory days. Against England, they seemed to lack a plan other than slowly creeping forward from breakdown to breakdown with the little ball they had.

Other than that, the ball was hoisted sky-high with varying degrees of accuracy, but as a tactic, it was largely diffused without fuss by the English back three.

The decision to promote them into the Rugby Championship was the right one and a just reward for their improvement in the last decade, but it has come at a time when they have waved goodbye to a raft of the men who did so much to earn that recognition. The next generation needs to stand up and soon.

 

Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Chris Robshaw has matured as skipper

This time last year, Chris Robshaw was questioning his own decision to kick at goal rather than go for the lineout. Late in the game against South Africa, he was left looking a tad foolish as he turned to the referee to enquire whether he could change his mind. England eventually lost an eminently winnable game.

Early in the game against Argentina, he backed his forwards, ordering Owen Farrell to put the ball in the corner, and it resulted in Joe Launchbury's try from a well-marshaled rolling maul. As the Pumas clawed their way back into the contest, Robshaw was clear-headed enough to change tack and opt for the posts to keep them at arm’s length.

 

Twelvetrees-Farrell axis worked well

After being maligned for his display last week, Billy Twelvetrees got back to something like the form he showed in his debut against Scotland in the Six Nations. We saw what he can bring to the side in his ability to interchange with Owen Farrell at first receiver. It is not an option England have with Brad Barritt in the side, but the litmus test for the Gloucester man comes next week.

 

When England slow down, they are poor

It was evident last week, and it was proven again against Argentina. If England lose control at the breakdown and their ball slows down, they look incredibly average.

For large parts of the second half, Twickenham had about as much atmosphere as a queue at the Post Office. They must be faster and more purposeful with their possessions, or the crowd will go mute and the All Blacks will punish them.

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