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Nic Ladds 13th Nov 2009 - 10:51

England may struggle to fully tame the Pumas

It would take a very brave man to pile in to England at odds of 1/6 to beat an Argentina side who although are hamstrung by injuries, will no doubt have their supporters at 7/2.

Martin Johnson's side looks atrocious in the second half against Australia last time and although they only went down 18-9, it should have been a lot more. Lewis Moody and Johnny Wilkinson were about the only two to come out of the game with any credit and the lack of creativity and ideas going forward, along with some questionable defending cannot be tolerated once again.

James Haskell comes in at number 8 which should have some explosiveness in the pack, and Paul Hodgson is given his chance at scrum-half which looks a good move as does starting Dylan Harley at hooker, but the back line need to come out with more spark than they did last time.

Ugo Monye is a dubious choice at full back again having played poorly last time, while the England pack need to be more urgent at the break down, turn over more ball rather than flopping limply on top of an already formed ruck, and utilising the brilliant Tom Croft could be an idea this time around.

England are asked to give up 9 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11 and if Argentina were at full strength this would be one to swerve but the Pumas are missing Juan Martin Hernandez and Juan Martin Leguizamon as well as Felipe Contepomi which has ripped out the heart of their team.

They do though have one of the best packs in the world with the front row of Roncero, Ledesma and Scelzo enough to worry any pack and that is where Argentina will win this game if they are to and judging by the state of their back line, if England can't run in a try or two then we should be worried.

Argentina memorably stunned England at Twickenham in 2006 winning 25-18 but they were a vastly different team then, with a host of world class players who were horrendously underrated but punters may not be surprised with a similar winning margin should England fail to turn up again and a win of 6-10 points for the away side is a big 12/1, while 1-5 points is 15/2.

The favourite winning margin is England to win by 11-15 points at 9/2 with a more realistic 6-10 5/1 or for the optimists, 21-25 can be backed at 15/2.

A couple to watch for Los Pumas are Harlequins star Gonzalo Tiesi (20/1 for first try) and explosive Dax winger Lucas Borges (16/1) who could pose Matt Banahan a few problems as his one-on-one skills are frighteningly good and the Bath winger will need to be on his toes.

Banahan himself is 10/1 to go over first with Mark Cueto also 10/1 with the centre pairing of Shane Geraghty and Dan Hipkiss both 16/1 and both look very capable of doing some damage if given the space which they lacked against Australia and it will be surprising if England can find a way through using the forwards.

Martin Johnson has so far failed to impress as a coach as he seems to conservative and there is no way the team has improved under him and a small back of no try scorer at 25/1 looks a good bet as while Argentina are not the attacking force of Australia, it is hard to see how England are going to improve so vastly in a week - it is not that we lack the players or the potential, but Johnson's tactics just seem way too negative and against a weaker but organised Argentina side, these frailties could show once again.

This writer hopes he is wrong and that we can brush aside an under-strength Pumas team with ease and look forward to giving New Zealand a run for their money - but from a punting perspective, a low score looks the call with the boot of Wilkinson getting us to victory once again.

Punters will have been in clover last time if you backed first scoring play an England drop goal and at 10/1 it could be worth another shout. A victory at Twickenham for the home side should happen but it looks like it could be a grind and with the handicap set about right, a back of England winning by 6-10 points at 5/1 looks the bet along with no try scorer at 25/1.

One thing's for sure, if England can't at the very least win without looking troubled against this team then the death knell should start tolling for Johnson before England's World Cup hopes are over before they've even started.


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