Brian Smith: Troubled Argentina can be dangerous but England should tame them

Coach's view: You can have all the talent and potential in the world yet struggle when your players are spread all over the globe

I sat in Twickenham’s south stand for the England-Australia game last Saturday, right at the very top – a different kind of perch from the usual coach’s position. From my vantage point, the rugby was disappointingly one-dimensional for much of the contest, to the point of being disengaging. If England hadn’t made the most of their forward domination by scoring those tries after the interval, they might have taken a real kicking from the supporters.

Yes, they were rusty: it’s an occupational hazard when you go more than six months between major Tests, as England had done on this occasion. But having made heavy weather of things for 40 minutes, it was vital that they hit their straps in the second half.

These current Wallabies are far from the greatest we’ve seen but victory over them takes a whole heap of pressure off Stuart Lancaster and his players.

The game reinforced one of rugby’s great stereotypes: the image of England, all power and discipline up front, bringing their brute force to bear on a bunch of rebellious Aussie larrikins living off their wits. For most of the match England were certainly winning scrum penalties for fun. When you’re continually bossing the set piece and getting full value from the referee, it’s difficult to resist playing one-dimensional rugby. It’s the mindset that says: “This is working for us, so why do anything else?”

Needless to say, today’s game with Argentina will throw up a different set of issues. The Pumas are wafer-thin in certain positions, but on a good day they are capable of causing major disruption pretty much anywhere in the rugby world. We also know that whatever happens at the line-out, or out wide, or in midfield, they will pride themselves on putting in a performance at the scrum.

Having said that, things are tough for the Pumas, largely because there is no place they can call home. I don’t see the sports economy in Argentina being strong enough to support professional club rugby on a domestic basis – not while the French are throwing their euros around with such abandon – and, as the Samoans have discovered, you can have all the talent and potential in the world yet struggle for consistency when your players are spread all over the globe.

I’m not even sure the Pumas are playing their rugby in the right place. Joining Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in a southern hemisphere Rugby Championship is all well and good, but unless their players start featuring in Super 15 rugby in heavy numbers, they could unravel at Test level. Premiership clubs are beginning to look elsewhere for their overseas recruits – not because the Argentines aren’t up to it, but because they are not available often enough.

At London Irish, we took a close look at Nicolas Sanchez, who plays outside-half for the Pumas today. He’s a quality 10, but ultimately we were going to be carrying the cost of bringing him on board while he was off playing Test rugby for the first three months of the season.

It seems to me that more and more European teams are suddenly sidestepping the Pumas when as recently as three or four years ago, they’d have been scratching each others’ eyes out for the best Puma signatures. We get any number of CVs from good Argentinian players, many of them seeking deals on a pro rata basis. It’s a solution of sorts, but it doesn’t do much for continuity.

England should win today, with something to spare. Argentina? An honourable defeat at Twickenham would, in the grand scheme of things, be the least of their problems.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee