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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
England beware Pumas' bite
Argentina are a tough nut to crack on their home turf
Argentina are a tough nut to crack on their home turf

Buenos Aires has never been a city for the faint-hearted and on Saturday it claimed another victim when the Pumas toppled France for the fifth time.

The 28-27 result was reported as something of an embarrassment for Bernard Laporte's men.

  Recent results:
Argentina 28-27 France
Argentina 20-24 NZ
Scot 16-25 Argentina
Wales 16-39 Argentina
Italy 17-38 Argentina
But those with any knowledge of Argentina's proud history on the rugby field realise it is merely the latest in a long line of impressive home victories.

The South American giants have defeated virtually every top class rugby nation, with the exception of South Africa and New Zealand.

And against those they have come agonisingly close.

In 2000, they narrowly lost out 37-33 to the Springboks and last year they were similarly edged 24-20 by the All Blacks.

Sixteen years earlier, they came even closer - recording a 21-21 draw against a Kiwi side captained by lock Jock Hobbs.

The Pumas celebrate their 33-13 win over England in 1997
The Pumas beat England 33-13 in 1997
If all that was not enough, England A lost out 29-24 to their Argentine counterparts this week - evidence in itself that those England fans expecting an afternoon stroll on Saturday may be misguided.

Instead, the Pumas have already thrown down the gauntlet to an impoverished England squad that will need to squeeze every drop of class from its players to emerge victorious.

For those still doubting their strength on home soil, it is worth remembering that only two sides have ever managed to claim series' victories in Argentina; France and Wales.

England's last tour there in 1997 ended in ignominy when, despite a 46-20 win in the opening Test, they then fell 33-13 in a four-tries-to-two defeat.

Aussies downed

Even world champions Australia have struggled to find form in the smouldering South American capital.

In 1997, a squad filled with class - including the likes of John Eales, Tim Horan, Ben Tune, Pat Howard, George Gregan and Michael Foley - could only manage a respectable series draw.

A hard-fought 23-15 win, courtesy of a try from Owen Finnegan and six penalties from fly-half David Knox, was followed by a two point loss one week later.

Wing Diego Giannantonio's conversion was all that separated the sides, but it was enough to send the Australians home with their tails between their legs.

Argentine scrum-half Agustin Pichot
Clive Woodward will need to close down Argentine scrum-half Agustin Pichot
Like most tours to Argentina, the interest among fans is negligible and the media coverage sparse - factors accentuated one hundredfold when football's World Cup is also taking place.

But the result of England's one-off Test in Buenos Aires provides fans of the red rose with evidence of what they can expect from their country in future years.

With virtually every senior member of the side at home, including the likes of Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jonny Wilkinson, Woodward will field a side containing five new caps.

London Irish pair Michael Horak and Geoff Appleford, Saracens centre Ben Johnstone, Bristol wing Phil Christophers and Harlequins lock Alex Codling all look set to start.

A positive result will signal to the world that England now have the strength in depth to accompany their new-found status as the world's number one side.

But they must overcome a team who have consistently proved they are able to punch above their weight - a task made all the more difficult in front of a partisan Buenos Aires crowd that will surely be baying for yet another impressive rugby scalp.


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