Coach Jones throws Rugby World Cup bait to England hopefuls
Santa Fe (Argentina) (AFP)
There are 827 days before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, but England coach Eddie Jones says time is running out for fringe players seeking seats on the Tokyo flight.
The Australian has been drilling into his squad this week the importance of the second and final Test against Argentina Saturday in northeastern city Santa Fe.
A late try from New Zealand-born rugby league convert Denny Solomona gave the visitors a 38-34 first Test triumph in one of the most exciting internationals this year.
Now Jones wants to complete a 2-0 series whitewash, and hopes some of his severely depleted squad raise their hands as World Cup squad candidates.
The coach plans to name a 45-strong elite player squad this August and told reporters the group will have a "strong World Cup colour about it.
"It will certainly be more geared toward the World Cup than previous squads," said the architect of a stunning triumph by Japan over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in England.
"I would estimate about 80 percent of the squad for the World Cup in Japan will come from the 45 players who form the next elite group.
"That is why the second Test against the Pumas is really important -- it may be the last chance for some to show me they deserve to be considered for the World Cup."
England flew to South America minus 30 of their top players, primarily because 16 had been called up for British and Irish Lions tour duty in New Zealand.
That opened the door for fringe players to impress Jones, who was also a key advisor to coach Jake White when South Africa won the 2007 World Cup in France.
While teenage flanker Tom Curry received rave media reviews for his first Test performance in San Juan, Jones also singled out fellow loose forward Mark Wilson.
"He has been a real revelation," was the Jones critique of the 27-year-old openside flanker.
Wilson is on the bench and Curry takes a break this weekend with former skipper Chris Robshaw and debutant Sam Underhill joining retained No. 8 Nathan Hughes in the back row.
The other change from the first Test starters is at inside centre with Piers Francis taking over from Alex Lozowski, who is among the replacements.
The Pumas also have cause for optimism as they build toward the World Cup, where they will tackle England, France and two nations to be decided in the pool stages.
Argentina excelled in San Juan during the second half and it was difficult to believe that the same players had been floundering lately playing Super Rugby as the Jaguares.
Veteran multi-capped utility back Juan Martin Hernandez thought he had won the match with a drop goal only to be upstaged by a 79th-minute try from Solomona.
"We were the superior side for much of the first Test and I hope we can triumph in Santa Fe," coach Daniel Hourcade told reporters.
"My team wasted some good scoring opportunities and surrendered possession at key moments. I hope we have learnt from our mistakes.
"I am encouraged, though, by the continual improvement the Pumas show in many aspects of the game. We did particularly well at the scrums and line-outs," he said.
What will concern Hourcade is that a losing streak against England has extended to seven matches.
The Pumas last celebrated a Test victory over the English in 2009, edging a thriller 24-22 in Salta.
Hourcade has made one change to his starting side for Santa Fe, promoting Ramiro Moyano to the right wing with Matias Moroni dropping to the bench.
© 2017 AFP