Pumas inspired by axed Sanchez for crunch England match

Argentina rugby team players celebrate after winning 28-12 against Tonga during the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
England coach Eddie Jones watches his players before the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Kobe Misaki Stadium, between England and the United States in Kobe, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (Yohei Fukuyama/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO — Argentina is using the selflessness of axed flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez to bond even more before it make-or-break Rugby World Cup match against England on Saturday.

Argentina must win or it will be eliminated in the pool stage for the first time in 16 years.

England wants a third straight pool win to secure a quarterfinals berth for the first time in eight years.

Sanchez, Argentina’s record scorer, paid for the opening loss to France by being demoted to the reserves against Tonga. He came off the bench in the second half with the Pumas in charge against Tonga at 28-7. They prevailed 28-12. But Sanchez missed out on the matchday 23 to play England, and was replaced in the reserves by Lucas Mensa, who was surprised. Mensa prefers to play inside center but said he can back up starting flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta.

“These are games where everyone has to play a part, but we know the important thing is the team,” reserve scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra said at the captain's run on Friday. “Nico (Sanchez) is an example to the whole team in that sense, in terms of how he is conducting himself and how he transmits to everyone that the important thing is the group and not individuals. That makes us very strong.”

Loosehead prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro expects Argentina’s scrum to be targeted because it has been mediocre of late for the Pumas.

“The scrum will be a barometer,” Tetaz Chaparro admitted. “They're very explosive, that's why we have to be dynamic. We have to try to steal a march, both in the maul and the scrum. We also have to be firm and play on our terms. If we have to slow the ball down, so be it.”

England will face a challenge of its “manlihood,” according to coach Eddie Jones.

“It’s a test of manlihood, so you have to take them on up front; scrum, maul, ruck attack, ruck defense. That's where it will be won,” he said.

Jones added that England can’t be thinking of eliminating the dangerous Pumas. Instead, they must think of advancing themselves.

“It is not a matter of us taking advantage (of Argentina's desperation), it's a matter of us preparing well for the game," Jones said. "We have prepared well, and physically we are in the best position we have ever been in.

“We can't be seduced by Argentina's state. We know they play with a lot of pride and a lot of passion and that will be multiplied by the fact they are in a game that's very important to them. The passion and pride come down to the toughness of your play. But then there's emotional control because when you have a lot of passion and pride, it tends to multiply your strengths and multiply your weaknesses.

“It's a bit like a tea bag isn't it? You don't know how good it is until you put it in hot water.”

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More AP Rugby World Cup: https://www.apnews.com/RugbyWorldCup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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