Cueto says England are feeling the pressure

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The Independent Online

Mark Cueto admitted England are under immense pressure to beat Argentina in tomorrow's showdown at Twickenham and save their autumn international series from near disaster.

England head into the Pumas clash on the back of an 18-9 defeat to Australia which saw Martin Johnson's men slip to their lowest ever ranking of eighth in the world.

And with the might of New Zealand due at Twickenham on November 21, Cueto knows England cannot afford to suffer a second straight defeat to the Pumas.

England drew their summer Test series 1-1 with Argentina but Cueto acknowledges the English rugby public will arrive at Twickenham tomorrow demanding a victory.

"There is huge pressure this week," said the Sale Sharks winger.

"This is a game that people expect us to win. That is not always the way you want to go into a game.

"The All Blacks is a huge game regardless - but to be going into it having played two and lost two is certainly not where we want to be.

"We want to get some momentum behind us. We need to pick up from the first half against the Aussies, build on that and go in to this weekend improving and confident.

"With the quality of the players we have got, the quality of the Premiership and the structures we have in this country, eighth is not acceptable and we are desperate to improve that."

England have just five victories from 12 Tests since Martin Johnson took hands on control in the autumn of 2008 and their record against the leading southern hemisphere opposition is poor.

In six Tests against Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, England have managed just one victory, against the Pumas at Old Trafford in June.

Despite being the best resourced union in the world, allowing the Rugby Football Union to fork out millions of pounds for better access to their players, England's performance against the Wallabies was described by assistant coach John Wells as "turgid".

But Cueto is confident that having that game under their belt will help England, who have made four changes in a bid to inject some urgency and dynamism into the side.

Hooker Dylan Hartley, number eight James Haskell and scrum-half Paul Hodgson all start and Cueto said: "We need to keep defenders more honest and put more speed on the ball.

"We have a huge amount of faith in where we are going. The more time we spend together the better we get. Look at the Six Nations, we gained momentum as the tournament went on and improved week in and week out.

"On the back of being together for three weeks, and having played that game last week, hopefully we will see a big improvement this weekend."

England may be in the grip of a major injury crisis but Argentina arrive at Twickenham with a makeshift feel about them too after losing four key backs including playmakers Juan Martin Hernandez and Felipe Contepomi.

But what remains worryingly familiar for England is the Argentina front five, widely regarded as the best scrummaging unit in world rugby.

And with the weather forecast predicting heavy rain, Cueto fears the occasion could be teed up perfectly for the mauling, driving, tight rugby on which Argentina base their game.

"Conditions this week have been pretty poor and if it is wet and windy tomorrow we do have a Plan B," said Cueto.

"The wind and the rain could play into their hands. They will look at attacking our front five.

"They have a lot of experience there and if they can keep the ball tight and have a lot of scrums it will be happy days for them."

Johnson has told his men will need to play "smart" because in poor conditions penalty points "count double".

England will need to be particularly wary of the new International Rugby Board directives for referees, which were issued yesterday concerning tackling and contact areas.

"We have got to be smart and adapt to any areas of the game that Nigel Owens is looking at particularly strongly, we need to communicate with him and work on our feet as a team," said Johnson.

"You have to be aware that things have been put out there by the IRB and are top of the list but we will still be tackling and competing for the ball.

"My one message before the game will be to put them under pressure."