Woodward puts his faith in the courage of youth

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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward continues to insist that he has the personnel to make sense of this short but severely problematical trip to Puma country, but now acknowledges that his players, many of them untested at international level, will have to perform at the peak of their powers to win either of this week's matches. "I'm not sure they are sleeping quite as easily as they were," he confessed after watching Argentina's victory over France on Saturday.

Clive Woodward continues to insist that he has the personnel to make sense of this short but severely problematical trip to Puma country, but now acknowledges that his players, many of them untested at international level, will have to perform at the peak of their powers to win either of this week's matches. "I'm not sure they are sleeping quite as easily as they were," he confessed after watching Argentina's victory over France on Saturday.

Hugh Vyvyan, the uncapped Newcastle lock, will lead the England midweek team against Argentina A at the Buenos Aires Cricket and Rugby Club this evening, while Phil Vickery, a heavily capped Lion, will captain the Test side this weekend. Both matches will ask serious questions of the least experienced England squad to travel anywhere since the spectacularly ill-conceived tour of the great southern hemisphere strongholds four years ago.

As Woodward admitted, the rugby in this neck of the union woods is physically challenging in the extreme. "Of all the sides we meet, Argentina are the best at playing to their strengths," the manager said. "We know we will have to compete at the set-pieces – if we don't, we'll get battered – and play our games at pace. They have some big units up front and are phenomenally strong on the ball. But we have brought fit, fresh players, people who want to make a mark. I'm confident we can do a job."

Federico Mendez, the Argentinian hooker, would clearly like to do a job on Woodward's assistant coach, Andy Robinson. Mendez played under the former England flanker at Bath in the mid-1990s and hated virtually every minute of it: "Andy wasn't the nicest guy, but I wasn't in the best of moods either," he said after Saturday's match, adding that he did not include Robinson in his circle of friends.

Not that the West Countryman will waste too much time fretting over Mendez's view of the world. He is far too busy trying to fathom how an England second-string pack boasting only 30 caps, 23 of them belonging to the Bath hooker Mark Regan, can stack up tonight against some of the best scrummagers around.

ENGLAND A (v Argentina A, Buenos Aires, today): T Beim (Gloucester); D Rees (Bristol), T May (Newcastle), K Sorrell (Saracens), M Cueto (Sale); D Walder (Newcastle), N Walshe (Sale); T Woodman (Gloucester), M Regan (Bath), R Morris (Northampton), R Fidler (Gloucester), H Vyvyan (Newcastle, capt), A Balding (Leicester), D Danaher (London Irish), P Anglesea (Sale) Replacements: S Thompson (Northampton), D Flatman (Saracens), A Codling (Harlequins), A Sanderson (Sale), A Gomarsall (Gloucester), C Hodgson (Sale), T Stimpson (Leicester)

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