Rowell urges his troops to beware complacency

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The Independent Online
The waiting is over, and for England that means not only the past nine days since their arrival in South Africa but the two months since they concluded their leisurely - this is a relative term - Grand Slam against the Scots.

When Will Carling's team launch their World Cup against Argentina at King's Park this evening they will be at a marked disadvantage in terms of match practice, the Pumas having recently made a brief tour of Australia which, though they lost both Tests, did them no harm at all.

It is a reminder to England of how awkward their opponents could be that three weeks ago Argentina led the Wallabies 13-3 at half-time in Brisbane, having successfully applied their fearsome scrummage technique known as the bajadita in which they field a prop at hooker - Federico Mendez calls himself a "centre-prop" - and do not bother to strike for the ball.

This was a notion that Jacques Fouroux once tried to impose on his French sides of the late Eighties and much good it did them. But the Argentinians are sufficiently certain of themselves to believe they can at the very least inconvenience England in this confrontational area.

"We see Argentina as a dangerous team with a good scrum, driving maul, a good kicking game and a very good line-out drill," Jack Rowell, the England manager, said. But lest they begin to seem unbeatable, in the end the Wallabies came through to win that second Test 30-13.

So Brian Moore's pack scarcely need to be over-concerned and, in any case, if England impose their own pattern the difference in the calibre of the sides is such that whatever the Pumas may try will avail them less than they may imagine.

Not that they are making any pretence of thinking they might actually win. "Our objective is not to beat England but to qualify in the pool, though if we managed to beat England it would be a lot easier to do that," said Alejandro Petra, who forms a harmonious coaching partnership with Ricardo Paganini.

Indeed if there is a danger to England it is more likely to come from themselves, from complacently imagining that with Italy and Western Samoa to come after the Pumas they are already as good as in the last eight. Hence English impatience at the constant talk, since South Africa's momentous win in Thursday's opening match in Cape Town, of the anticipated quarter- final against Australia.

"As I keep saying, if we take our eye off the ball we will fall over ourselves," Rowell said. In other words, a decent win - and still better a decent performance - against Argentina would do perfectly well for now. Nothing that has happened since the teams have been in Durban has suggested otherwise.

England's training has been precise and to the point, comfortably the most impressive of recent years and therefore comfortably the best in the entire history of English rugby. Carling does not need reminding that people were saying something similar about the Wallabies before they lost to the Springboks.

England have been worked so hard that Rowell gave his players their second non-training day yesterday, for which Ben Clarke, who is recovering from a calf injury, was most grateful. The Pumas, by contrast, trained as usual but it was not quite satisfactory as German Llanes, whose line-out expertise is critical to Argentine prospects, was unable to participate - or even sit down for very long - because of a strained buttock.

Then Martin Teran, the wing who scored two tries against Australia in the 1991 tournament, pulled up with a hamstring injury. Both expect to be fit for today's game but one Puma already out is Francisco Garcia who, when he suffered his knee injury on Thursday, was said to have stopped training as a precaution.

Diego Cuesta Silva has been moved from wing to centre for a match that will leave him one cap short of Hugo Porta's Argentine record of 49. Diego Albanese will win his third cap by filling the vacancy. England's problems are modest by comparison: Rowell said yesterday that Dean Richards had made such a good recovery from his hamstring strain that he could even at a pinch have played today.

Yesterday Richards led a goodwill visit by the five England players not involved against Argentina into the township of Esselen Heights - salutary evidence after Thursday's festivities at Newlands of the vast amount of development work that needs to be done if rugby really is to be spread among non-whites.

On the other hand, this is a country for which World Cup enthusiasm has now become World Cup fever, and the affliction appears to affect non-whites as well as whites. South Africa have already set an extravagant standard in beating Australia and, even if it is bound to be played in a lower key, England must now do likewise.

Morris' moment, page 46