Argentina’s scrum may lack of the potency of old but Dan Cole insists it remains a significant threat to England’s goal of making a triumphant start to their World Cup.
Two sides who take pride in their forward dominance collide in Pool D’s highest-profile fixture in Marseille on Saturday, with the winners placing one foot into the quarter-finals.
Argentina’s last great scrum was 2015 when feared props Marcos Ayerza and Ramiro Herrera helped them reach the World Cup semi-finals, but more strings have now been added to the Pumas’ bow.
But tighthead prop Cole insists that with his Leicester-mate Julian Montoya present in their front row at hooker, they are still a formidable set-piece unit.
“It’s a force. Whether it’s the force of your (Martin) Scelzos, (Rodrigo) Ronceros and (Mario) Ledesmas….. But you still have Montoya, who I know brilliantly well,” Cole said.
“You look at their team in the Rugby Championship, they’re dangerous. If you have one scrummage where you are not fully focused they will do you damage and get stuck into you.
“They’re a dangerous team and they’ve grown their game in other areas. We know what’s coming up front.
“They love the physical contest. You speak to some of their front five – Tomas Lavanini when he was at Leicester and Montoya – and they relish the physical part of the game.
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“Marcos Ayerza could talk for days about the scrum, both the physical and mental aspect of it.
“That’s the tradition of their game, we respect that and we look forward to playing them because that’s the game.”
Cole will be in the front line of resistance to Argentina’s forward assault at the Stade Velodrome as he prepares to take part in his fourth World Cup, either in the number three jersey or as a replacement.
The 36-year-old’s Test career appeared to be over until Steve Borthwick’s arrival as head coach offered a route back and he made his first appearance since the 2019 final in the recent Six Nations.
England’s scrum was overwhelmed by South Africa in Yokohama four years ago and Cole appeared to have paid the price.
“I didn’t think this would happen but now I’m here and I’m very happy and grateful to be part of it,” Cole said.
“It was a surprise to get the call from Steve because I hadn’t played for England for three years. I’d worked with him at Leicester but he didn’t give anything away.
“After 2019 and what happened in the final, I wouldn’t say it would have been easy to have packed it in, but it would have been easy to just drift.”
Borthwick names his starting XV on Thursday afternoon, with either Will Stuart or Kyle Sinckler joining Cole in the 23.
England’s head coach faces a difficult decision at scrum-half with no clear pick emerging from the trio of Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Alex Mitchell.
Manu Tuilagi is expected to be joined in the centres by either Ollie Lawrence or Joe Marchant, while two of Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Max Malins and Henry Arundell will fill the wing slots.