Dowson looks to long term

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Churchill Cup fever may hardly be gripping the nation in the wake of the opening Lions Test, but England's players in Canada are only too aware that victory today could lead them to the biggest stage in rugby.

Joe Lydon, the England A coach, has persistently reminded anyone listening that recent years have shown the now-annual competition in North America can act as a springboard to future honours. A handful of England's second-string team in 2002, including Martin Corry, Ben Kay and Lewis Moody, are in New Zealand with the Lions.

Hence, with the World Cup two years away, today's England A side could be forgiven for having one eye on the possibilities beyond beating Argentina here.

"We know this competition will not get huge coverage back home, especially with the Lions on at the moment, but that's not important," said the Newcastle No 8 Phil Dowson, who will have started both games of the tour when he runs out today.

"What is important is the opportunity this competition gives guys like myself. Uncapped players have now been handed a massive opportunity to have a shot at international rugby. Hopefully, if you impress it could lead to bigger and better things."

Dowson has already been tipped by Lydon as a Test forward for the future, yet he is certainly not the only youngster from the North-east, or the rest of the country, looking to make his mark. His 19-year-old Newcastle team-mate Mathew Tait is back in a senior England jersey for the first time since he was dropped after his miserable Test debut against Wales, having recovered from a hamstring strain.

Tait said: "I have learned from what happened in the Six Nations. Now I am back in the England squad and it is another great chance to show what I can do.

"Everyone wants to develop their game and perform well enough to be involved with England next season. But the priority has to be winning against Argentina and winning the cup."

That will be music to the ears of Lydon, who is now being subjected to far greater scrutiny since moving from the relative obscurity of the sevens circuit to leading an England tour.

Argentina, meanwhile, have shown their intent by flying their scrum-half linchpin Agustin Pichot and 28-times capped No 8 Pablo Bouza to Edmonton for the final.