Eddie Jones declared “hang on to your seats” as he lit the fuse for England’s pivotal World Cup group clash with Argentina on Saturday.
Jones has picked his strongest available starting XV for the Pool C showdown at Tokyo Stadium in pursuit of the victory that would propel his title challengers into the quarter-finals.
Marauding prop Mako Vunipola and tackle-busting wing Jack Nowell are poised to make their first appearances of the tournament after overcoming lengthy injury-enforced absences to secure places on the bench.
For now Joe Marler has held off the challenge of Vunipola at loosehead and the Harlequin’s scrummaging expertise will be needed against Argentina after they hinted against France that their once-powerful set-piece has been restored.
Jones views the scrum as a cornerstone of English strength and predicts it will be a key battleground in Tokyo.
“It’s a part of the Argentinian culture. Like anything in life you can have dormant periods but when it’s a fabric of your rugby it’s quite easy to reignite,” Jones said.
“Mario Ledesma (the Argentina coach) has done that particularly well. It’ll be a massive test on Saturday.
“They haven’t scrummed against us yet and we believe our scrum can be a real weapon for us, so hang on to your seats.
“They’re an interesting team, a strong team. We know that Argentina are at their best at World Cups. We respect them very greatly.”
Vunipola and Nowell missed the Pool C victories over Tonga and USA because of respective hamstring and ankle injuries but have been passed fit for the first major test of the group phase.
Nowell has not played since his blockbusting performance for Exeter in last season’s Gallagher Premiership final but is present on the bench where he will be unleashed as a hard-running impact substitute.
“Mako and Jack were still some way off but they trained really well yesterday,” Jones said.
“If they hadn’t trained as well yesterday we probably wouldn’t have picked them in the 23, but they showed they’re fit enough to make a really significant contribution to our outfit on Saturday.”
Tuilagi was a marauding presence against Tonga, scoring two tries in a man-of-the-match performance, but was rested for the USA clash.
Jones has opted for the openside flanker combination of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, the duo he dubbed ‘Kamikaze Kids’, in the back row with Lewis Ludlam deputising on the bench.”