Johnson confident of breaking new ground

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson is set to step into the unknown when England attempt to complete a series victory over Argentina tonight.

As a player England's World Cup-winning captain tasted success visiting every major Test-playing nation except Argentina, the only destination he failed to tour.

The England manager (right) said: "It would have been nice had I played in Argentina. In 1997 it was the same as this – a Lions year – and in 2002 Clive Woodward didn't take a lot of us. It would have been good to come here but I will finally get to see what it's like on Saturday. To win a Test match in Argentina has always been difficult historically.

"We just need to be mentally right to get up for the game. There's a little bit of the unknown about it but we will take care of ourselves."

England's Test record since Johnson took charge in July last year is played 10, won five with three successive wins culminating at Old Trafford last weekend. Just under a year ago England were exposed as a shambles on and off the pitch during their tour to New Zealand but now Johnson's simple philosophy is beginning to sink in.

"It's been a difficult year in some ways. I don't know if it's the Johnson message, it is the message about how you win Test matches," he said.

"There is not a Johnson way of playing the game – we will play the way we think we need to play to win the match."

Strengthened by the return of hooker Mario Ledesma, lock Rimas Alvarez Kairelis and prop Marcos Ayerza, Argentina will prove a far more formidable outfit on home soil. Even in their current state of decline – they have lost six of their eight games since finishing third at the 2007 World Cup – their forward-orientated, attritional rugby remains ugly yet effective.

"I think it will be a very tight," said Johnson. "It will come down to kicking goals. You must get ahead of Argentina – you don't want to be chasing the game because of the way they control the ball and their kicking game.

"We've got to impose ourselves on them, get away from our 22 and put the pressure on them rather than inviting the pressure back on ourselves."

Venue: Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.

Kick-off: 20.00 BST

England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), D Hipkiss (Leicester), T May (Newcastle), M Banahan (Bath); A Goode (Brive), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), J White (Leicester), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), L Deacon (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Armitage (London Irish), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), D Wilson (Newcastle), B Kay (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), S Vesty (Leicester), M Tait (Sale Sharks).

Argentina: H Agulla; F Leonelli, G Tiesi, S Fernandez , G Camacho; JM Hernandez, A Lalanne; R Roncero , M Ledesma, M Ayerza, R Alvarez, P Albacete, G Fessia, JM Leguizamon, JM Fernandez Lobbe (capt).

Replacements: A Vernet Basualdo, JP Orlandi, M Carizza, E Lozada, N Vergallo, M Avramovic, L Gonzalez Amorosino.

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