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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Vickery relishes Pumas test
Phil Vickery in relaxed mood after England training on Wednesday
Vickery is a contender to claim the captaincy long-term
Phil Vickery has vowed England will not take a backward step when they confront Argentina's revered forwards in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

The Gloucester prop will captain his country in a Test for the first time at the atmospheric Velez Sarsfield, leading a side containing five debutants.

With 25 caps, Vickery is England's senior international in a squad missing established stars such as Martin Johnson, Jason Robinson, Jonny Wilkinson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

And the British Lion could emerge as a strong runner in the captaincy stakes before next year's World Cup campaign if he can help inspire an unlikely England win on Saturday.


As a front-row forward, there is no greater challenge in world rugby than facing Argentina
Phil Vickery

Argentina are seeking their fourth Six Nations scalp in seven months after beating France last Saturday and Scotland and Wales last autumn.

Their forwards have built a fearsome reputation - "they mullered the French pack," Vickery noted - and could pummel England into submission unless the visitors' pack is up to the task.

"Everyone knows what to expect from Argentina, and we will require an eight-man performance," Vickery warned.

"It all starts in the front-row, where we have got to compete, but we are not afraid of the task and neither are we going to take a backward step.

"I wouldn't expect any player in my team to take a backward step. The whole occasion and the stadium is going to be very intimidating, and it is going to be very difficult unless we stick together.

"Rugby matches are won or lost up front, and we have got to be competitive in all aspects of the forward game.

Harlequins lock Alex Codling is one of five new England caps
Lock Alex Codling, one of five new caps, faces a baptism of fire

"Speaking as a front-row forward, there is no greater challenge in world rugby than facing Argentina," he added.

"I am nervous already, and I love that feeling. Leading a team out against Argentina in Buenos Aires is a pretty amazing prospect, and I don't intend to let the occasion pass me by."

The Pumas are expected to attract a capacity 40,000 crowd on Saturday as they take centre stage following the Argentine football team's World Cup flop.

But Vickery insists England can use the intimidating atmosphere to their advantage.

"We've got to use the occasion as a positive factor," he added. "A lot of the England lads are young guys, but they've played in a lot of big games.


It is going to be difficult, but we want to give it a good bash
Phil Vickery

"They are quality players, and Saturday provides a fantastic opportunity for them to show what they can do.

"The boys have really applied themselves and no-one expects anything from us on Saturday, so we can go about our business, prepare well and enjoy the occasion.

"We know that the Test match is going to be difficult, but we want to give it a good bash."

Meanwhile, Argentina captain Lisandro Arbizu in struggling to be fit for the Test after going off at half-time against France with a rib injury.

If the centre fails to recover in time, Bristol fly-half Felipe Contepomi is expected to switch to midfield, with Gonzalo Quesada - who starred for Argentina A against England on Monday - recalled at number 10.


England on tour

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