At Twickenham yesterday, facing the mighty scrummaging machine of the Argentinians, even the coaches had pulled out, although forward specialist Phil Keith-Roach did lend technical support. That lumbered Simon Dear, the former Rosslyn Park and England A lock, with the job of coaching a bits and pieces side from Third and Fourth Division clubs; there was even a Division Seven man (former Harlequin Nick Killick).
Last Friday the squad was picked. Sunday saw their first training session from which the team was picked. On Tuesday another hour or so including 20 minutes on the scrum machine for the forwards and finally a further scrum practice in the hotel car park yesterday morning. Hardly ideal preparation, and without the established stars who generally make up the London Division it was not exactly a crowd-puller.
They could have squeezed another 73,000 into the ground. But the 1,000 or so who did go saw a spirited performance, which lasted for three-quarters of an hour. In that time London even had the effrontery to take the lead when full-back Hamish Rushin steamed over after Andy Pinnock came in off his right wing to create an extra man. Stand-off Craig Raymond then added the conversion.
The Argentinians, still possibly jet-lagged, were not really tested outside and ran in a total of eight tries, including a hat-trick for the No 8 Pablo Bouza. But the expected capitulation up front did not take place. Ably captained by the former London Welsh prop Julian Davies, London managed to hold their own.
They certainly earned the pounds 500 per man from the RFU - the same money the big names would have received - the hard way. The problem is they now have to repeat the performance, this time on Saturday as a curtain- raiser to England against Italy.
London: Tries Rushin, Alexander; Conversions Raymond 2; Penalties 2. Argentinians: Tries Bartolucci, Travaligni, Bouza 3, Jurado, Solari 2; Conversions Quesada 7; Penalties Quesada 3.
LONDON COUNTIES: H Rushin (Havant); A Pinnock (Havant), S Boydell (Havant), J Alexander (Esher), P Futter (Rosslyn Park); C Raymond (London Welsh), D Jones (Havant); D Rees (Havant), N Killick (Haywards Heath), J Davies (Esher, capt), I Campbell-Lamerton (Rosslyn Park), J Fowler (Sale), P Brady (Esher), M Reeve (Havant), C Brierley (Orrell). Replacements: N Oldham (Havant) for Brady, 47; A Tucker (L Welsh) for Killick, 58; B Pearce (Havant) for Brierley, 64; R Ashworth (Havant) for Rushin, 64; D Ruffelle (Rosslyn Park) for Campbell-Lamerton, 64; J Cameron (Havant) for Rees, 70; J Coulson (Wasps) for Jones 75.
ARGENTINA XV: D Giannantonio (E Jurado, 48); O Bartolucci (N Fernandez- Miranda, 76), F Garcia, L Arbizu (capt; J Cilley, 60), T Solari; G Quesada, C Barrea; R Grau (Hassan-Jalil, 68), C Promanzio, M Scelzo, J Simes, G Llanes (Fernandez-Lobbe, 77), R Travaglini, C Viel, P Bouza.
Referee: G Simmonds (WRU).