Sat, Nov 11, 2006 - Page 19 News List

England face `no-win' situation

CONUNDRUM Embattled coach Andy Robinson knows that whatever result England obtain against the Pumas today will not make his position any easier

AFP , LONDON

Argentina's Ignacio Corleto throws a ball during a training session in London on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

There was a time when an England side in the middle of a losing streak might have welcomed the visit of Argentina to Twickenham. But not now.

The world champions have lost their last six matches and another reverse today against the Pumas would see them equal their worst run in 34 years.

Argentina have yet to win on English soil but the South Americans are unlikely to be suffering from an inferiority complex in what will be the first match of their European tour.

In June they twice beat Wales at home before losing narrowly, 19-25, to world No. 1 New Zealand.

By contrast the All Blacks, favorites for next year's World Cup, won 41-20 at Twickenham last weekend -- the biggest margin of defeat ever suffered by England at their London home.

After this match the Pumas travel to Italy and then France, where they will be looking for a fifth straight win over the Six Nations champions.

England coach Andy Robinson is well aware just how good a side Argentina are but some sections of the country's wider sporting public might still have some catching up to do.

While they can accept defeat against traditional rugby powers such as the All Blacks and South Africa, who later this month play back-to-back Tests against England at Twickenham, they may not be so forgiving of a loss to the Pumas. Perhaps they should be.

Nevertheless, this weekend's match therefore has all the makings of a classic `no-win' situation for Robinson, who surprised many when he didn't quit after his entire backroom staff were sacked earlier this year.

However, cynics pointed out that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) couldn't afford to pay-off Robinson, whose contract runs until 2008, and that they had instead hoped to shame him into resignation by removing his lieutenants.

But the former England flanker remains in post for what could be the defining game of his career as national coach.

He has made just one change to the starting line-up beaten by the All Blacks, with prop Perry Freshwater -- who plays league rugby in France against several members of the Argentina pack -- set to make his full debut in place of the injured Andrew Sheridan.

Argentina are renowned for their forward play and Robinson said: "They have a unique way of playing the game, they love to maul the ball. They maul it more than any other side does in world rugby. At the close quarter ruck and drive, they are potentially the best in the world."

AP, EDINBURGH

Nothing less than a convincing win over Romania at Murrayfield today will please Scotland rugby coach Frank Hadden.

"We want to smash Romania," Hadden has told his side.

Scotland has won eight of 10 contests with the Oaks, the biggest by 60-19 at Glasgow in 1999. Romania's only two victories were at home in 1984 and 1991.

While Scotland hasn't played since June, Hadden expected his team to continue the improvement which earned it home victories against France and England in the Six Nations, and pushed South Africa in two narrow losses last summer.

Even with four new caps, two of them starters.

"What this match is about is building on the progress we made last season and fielding a winning Scotland team," Hadden said. "I'm not sacrificing our goal of winning a fourth successive game at Murrayfield for the first time in 11 years simply to introduce new players."

Hadden will debut No. 8 Johnnie Beattie and center Rob Dewey in the starting lineup, and possibly give two more newcomers -- forwards David Callam and Jim Hamilton -- their first caps off the bench.

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