Eddie Jones insists Argentina’s season-ending assault on England at Twickenham will be inspired by their determination to avoid the World Cup’s ‘group of death’.
The exhausted Pumas face the challenge of lifting themselves for a final time in a year that has seen the squad complete over 50 long-haul flights due to their Rugby Championship commitments and Jaguares team’s involvement in Super Rugby.
Today’s outcome could have far-reaching repercussions, with Argentina positioned ninth in the global rankings with the potential to climb as high as fifth should they win, thereby placing them among the second seeds when the draw for Japan 2019 is made in Kyoto on May 10.
Defeat at Twickenham, however, could lead to the type of brutal World Cup pool which resulted in England’s demise last autumn, prompting Jones to warn his England team they will face opponents who are “full of beans”.
“The World Cup draw is a massive source of motivation for Argentina. If you get into a pool with tier one countries, then one team is going to miss out on the next stage,” said Jones.
“Because of that, we know that when they come to Twickenham, they will not be lacking in motivation.
“They’ve had a very strenuous season but they’ll come to Twickenham full of beans and ready to play.
“They’re a proud team and they’re coming to Twickenham, which is arguably the home of rugby. It’s a big stage and they’ll want to put their best foot forward.”
Argentina’s globe-trotting season has not been confined to the Rugby Championship. Their first match of the autumn was staged in Tokyo, where they emerged 54-20 winners, before immediately travelling to Britain where they have succumbed to defeats at the hands of Wales and Scotland.
Neal Hatley, England’s scrum coach, believes the prospect of “one last hurrah” will infuse tired Pumas legs with renewed energy.
“No matter who you’re playing, any team that come to Twickenham really want to have a pop,” said Hatley.
“England at Twickenham –they’ll be right up for it. I’m sure the long-haul flights have had an effect, but they’ve been in Europe for a while now, so they’ll have got used to normal sleeping patterns.
“For them, it’s a case of one last hurrah before a bit of down time, so fatigue won’t be a massive issue for them.
“We’re expecting real physicality from them. They’ve done unbelievably well in the Rugby Championship and where they finished in the table belies the quality of their performances for 60 or 70 minutes.
“In a lot of their games, they were as good as, if not better, than most of the teams they played.”
England are targeting a 13th successive Test victory – 11 have been secured under Jones – that will leave them one short of the national record sequence of 14, which can be equalled if Argentina and Australia are toppled over the next nine days.
It was Sir Clive Woodward’s World Cup winners who established the milestone in 2002-03, but Jones sees no value in such statistics.
“The only talk of records is in the media. There is no talk about it in this team, because we’re not interested in records, we’re interested in getting better,” said Jones.
“Every time we train and get together is an opportunity to get better. Our aim is to be the No 1 team in the world and you do that by getting better.”
England have made four changes to their starting XV with Tom Wood and George Kruis restored to the pack and Jonny May and Mike Brown returning to the back three.
Brown was dropped for the first time under Jones for the 58-15 rout of Fiji, making way for Alex Goode, but the fiery Harlequins full-back remains first choice in his position.