Tokyo: Argentina are 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 they will be eliminated in the pool stage for the first time in 16 years.
England wants a third straight pool win to secure a quarter-finals 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 centre 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 defence. 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.
Meanwhile, Tonga are taking inspiration from samurai swordsmen as they seek to repeat their famous 2011 victory over France at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Tongans will play France on Saturday in Kumamoto, a city famous for its samurai heritage, and they said Japan’s renowned warrior caste played a role in their build-up.
“The Kumamoto samurai had a fighting spirit we are looking to tap into. We’ve had that theme throughout our preparations this week,” said centre Siale Piutau.
“We are coming off two losses, but I hope we can create something special.”
Tonga are desperate for a win after two straight defeats to England and Argentina left them fourth in Pool C with two games to go.
Although beating France is unlikely, it is only eight years since they upset the Six Nations giants 19-14 at the pool stage of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
“We know the old boys did it in 2011. Now it’s down to us to pull off another upset,” said winger Cooper Vuna.
Piutau said it was in Tonga’s favour that several of their players are based in France, giving them the inside track on their opponents.
“I think it helps. They understand the mindset and psyche of French players,” he said.
“When we beat them in 2011, we had a lot of players who played alongside the French boys and it’s definitely a benefit for us.”
AUSTRALIA V URUGUAY (09:15 uae)
ENGLAND V ARGENTINA (12.00 UAE)
Japan vs Samoa (12.30 UAE)