Jones expecting '˜slug-athon' as England search for repeat win
Jones is expecting a backlash from the Pumas in the second Test in Sante Fe following their last-minute 38-34 defeat in San Juan, warning England’s opponents may go back into their shells after their expansive approach proved so costly in the end.
“I think it might be a bit of a slug-athon,” Jones said at a press conference in Sante Fe attended by a host of local dignatories including British ambassador Mark Kent. “It is very rarely that you get two games the same.
“It is like drinking a beer, the first beer never tastes the same as the second beer and the third beer never tastes the same as the second one. Rugby is the same.
“If the first game has been open, the second game has been tighter so we are prepared for both.
“We want to become a very adaptable team – we want to be able to play both ways, if we have to slug it out or if we have to play in an open affair like it was last week.
“We have made a few changes to have a slightly stronger team and we feel well equipped to handle the occasion.”
England are boosted by the return from injury of the experienced Chris Robshaw and Jones is excited to see his back-row partner Sam Underhill, who will become the 11th new cap on the tour.
Underhill, who like Robshaw was injured for the first game, takes over from teenager Tom Curry with a chance to stake a claim for the No 7 shirt going into the 2019 World Cup.
“We always had Sam earmarked to start at seven,” Jones said. “He started against the Baabaas and did well in the first 30 and now he has got his opportunity.
“With Tom Curry, we are just looking after him a bit. He had a terrific game last week, but he is still a bit battered and bruised and sometimes you are better off giving him a break now and get his off-season in and he will be right to go next season.”
With no fewer than 30 players missing through injury and British and Irish Lions calls, this tour has been about blooding players for the future.
Jones says he now has a squad of 62 which he will need to halve before the World Cup. “That’s 62 players we want to keep tabs on,” he said.
“It has got to get down to 31 so the competition is intense.”
While Underhill and centre Piers Francis, who will make his first start, have their eyes on the long-term, the more experienced players in the England team could yet be battling it out for Lions spots amid speculation that Warren Gatland may send for re-inforcements over the weekend.
After his man-of-the-match performance in San Juan, fly-half George Ford could profit from the injury to Owen Farrell while lock Joe Launchbury is another player with plenty of incentive to perform well in Sante Fe, although Jones refused to add to the speculation.
Meanwhile, captain Dylan Hartley is staying focused as he prepares to become the third most capped Englishman of all time.
He will play his 86th match on Saturday, overtaking Lawrence Dallaglio and Rory Underwood in the list with just Jonny Wilkinson (91) and Jason Leonard (114) ahead of him.
The Northampton hooker is determined to lead his youthful team to a series triumph and says there has been no let-up in training this week.
“I think it has probably intensified,” he said.
“It is easy at this time of year to have half the squad not playing and thinking about next week and going on holidays and going home to family.
“I know the squad are fighting to really drive the starting XV and get that final result on Saturday.
“We came here to win the series 2-0 and we have put ourselves in a position to do that. We want one final push to bring it home.”