Hayward, Healey and Care on Eng­land v Ar­gentina

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Daniel Schofield in Tokyo

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

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