Stuart Lancaster prepares his side for New Zealand after win against Argentina.
England coach Stuart Lancaster knows better than anyone his side will have to up their game when world champions New Zealand arrive at Twickenham seeking revenge.
The All Blacks made it 12 wins out of 12 in 2013 with a hard-fought 26-19 victory over France in Paris on Saturday after England had beaten Argentina 31-12 in London earlier in the day.
England scored three tries in a dominant first-half display against the Pumas to lead 24-6 at the break but had to wait until two minutes from time for their next points when replacement Ben Morgan crossed for their final try.
It was a disappointing second half after such a commanding opening 40 minutes but any complacency in the New Zealand camp will be tempered by the memory of their stunning 38-21 loss to England — the best result of Lancaster’s reign — in last year’s corresponding clash at Twickenham.
“You’ve got to give New Zealand the respect they deserve as a team but you’ve also got to give your own team self-belief and the belief that they can win,” said Lancaster after seeing England follow-up their 20-13 win over Australia with another victory.
“I know the players are delighted to have got two from two, that’s nine out of our last 10 internationals we’ve won, so we’ve got an inner confidence building, but we recognise the challenge that’s coming our way,” he added ahead of this coming Saturday’s crunch match.
England, with New Zealand-born hooker and man-of-the-match Dylan Hartley leading the way, subdued Argentina up front in a first half where lock Joe Launchbury, centre Billy Twelvetrees and wing Chris Ashton — who crossed the All Blacks’ line at Twickenham last year — all scored tries.
But Argentina, all of whose points came from penalties, responded gamely in the second half albeit rarely threatening a try.
Lancaster cited England’s relative youth as a reason why they hadn’t ‘kicked on’ after half-time.
“You are always striving for that 80-minute performance,” he said.
“When you’ve got a young side and you are building and playing a pretty experienced (Argentina) side, who’ve been through a Rugby Championship together, and were pushing Australia, South Africa and New Zealand close, you know they are going to have their moments in the game.
“The second half, they probably got more moments than we would have wanted but I thought our defence was excellent. If you offered us 31-12, we’d have taken it.”
For Argentina this was their ninth straight defeat in as many matches by a major nation this year, a sequence that started with a two-Test reverse at home to a British and Irish Lions-depleted England before they lost all six of their Rugby Championship fixtures.
But Argentina’s second half display at Twickenham in coach Daniel Hourcade’s first Test in charge gave them hope ahead of their upcoming Test against Wales.
“I think in the first half we kicked the ball away too quickly, so we let England dominate the play,” said Hourcade, who took over following the resignation of Santiago Phelan.
“In the second half we corrected that and managed to dominate the attack a bit more. I think also defensively we sat back in the first half a bit too much and in the second we were more aggressive in defence.”
Argentina defeated Wales, 24-15 losers to South Africa in Cardiff on Saturday, 26-12 at the Millennium Stadium last year but Pumas captain Juan Manel Leguizamon acknowledged a major improvement was required if his side were to enjoy more success in the Welsh capital next weekend.
“Second half we put more pressure on England but we still have a lot of work to do. We can’t ‘give away’ a half at this level but we will work hard this week to have a better match against Wales on Saturday,” the No 8 said.