Hayward, Healey and Care on England v Argentina
Argentina have dropped star flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez for their match against England tomorrow, which head coach Mario Ledesma is billing as their World Cup final.
After losing 23-21 to France in their opening game, Argentina, who have progressed from the group stages in the past three tournaments, cannot afford another defeat. England will start as prohibitive favourites at the Tokyo Stadium, but Ledesma believes his team can spring a major surprise.
“What gives me confidence? All the work that we’ve been doing and the mindset of the boys for this game. For us, this is our World Cup final,” Ledesma said. “That’s how important it is for us. It’s a really good opportunity to get into the history books of Argentinian rugby.
“England is the candidate for the title. They’ve been saying that for the last four years. Eddie Jones has been saying it. They have a lot of resources, a great team, but I’m confident it’s going to be really hard for them to beat us on the weekend.”
Argentina won their first match of the year, against Tonga, only last Saturday. Even then, they did it the hard way, being held pointless in the second half, having been dominated by France in the first half of their opening game. They are also on a nine-game losing run against England, but Ledesma believes past results are irrelevant.
“The results we’ve had before are not important,” he said. “We win this game, we’re in the quarterfinals. That’s how big this games is. The confidence comes through the work we’ve been doing and the fact we have everything to win from this game, we have nothing to lose.”
Ledesma has not shied away from making big calls after dropping Sanchez from the match-day 23. Benjamin Urdapilleta, 33, who has won just 12 caps in as many years representing the Pumas, comes in at No 10, but Argentina have no fly-half cover on the bench.
Sanchez finished the last World Cup as the tournament’s leading points-scorer and was considered one of the best fly-halves in the world. Yet since moving to Stade Francais, he has struggled to reintegrate himself into the Argentina set-up. The vast majority of their players represent the Jaguares in Super Rugby.
Sanchez was in poor form against France and Tonga, but Ledesma would not be drawn on the reasons for dropping him. “When we select the team we think about the best team possible to win the game on Saturday, and that is the parameters we use,” Ledesma said. “It’s nothing negative. This is the best selection possible to win the game.”
Julian Montoya keeps his place at hooker after scoring a hat-trick of tries against Tonga, meaning former captain Agustin Creevy will have to wait to break Argentina’s caps record from the bench.
Big decisions: Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has made several major changes