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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Duncan Bech

Jonny Bairstow ‘enthralled’ England squad ahead of Argentina clash at Twickenham

PA Wire

England intend hitting Argentina for six after cricket World Cup winner Jonny Bairstow visited their camp to deliver a motivational talk for Sunday’s autumn opener at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones’ squad were captivated as Bairstow told how he dealt with the highs and lows of his career, most recently the difficulty in coming to terms with the broken leg sustained during a freak golfing accident that has forced him to miss the T20 World Cup currently being staged in Australia.

England face the Pumas in the opening match of the Autumn Nations Series and Bairstow, who played for Yorkshire in age grade rugby, offered an insight into how he copes with pressure as they continue the countdown to their own global showpiece.

“Jonny was fantastic. He’s a big rugby fan, a number 10. He had the boys enthralled for an hour,” Jones said.

“He’s a great guy, loves his sport. He’s a dedicated sportsman and he loved watching training. Wants to bat at five he tells me.”

All eyes will be on Manu Tuilagi as the powerful Sale centre makes his first England appearance for a year after being hampered by hamstring and knee injuries.

Expectation is balanced with caution considering Tuilagi’s history of breaking down and Jones admits a player he is desperate to have available for the World Cup faces an important 80 minutes.

“Manu is in great nick. Psychologically he’s really focused, the medical staff in conjunction with Sale have done a great job in getting him back and this game is the big test,” Jones said.

“He is much more mature now than when I started with England in 2016. Most of those tearaway centres, when they are young they never stretch, they never do all the things they have got to because they just run hard. They are bit silly, all of those powerful centres.

“Now he has got a good opportunity to put together a great 12 months of rugby. He has kept himself healthy, Sale are looking after him well and we hope to get the best out of him.

“The players love playing with him because he is an engaging guy and he brings that physicality, so you have got this engaging guy who brings physicality and takes other players with him.”

England and Argentina clash in the group phase of next year’s World Cup and Jones is looking forward to their Twickenham appointment.

“It won’t dictate the result at the World Cup but one team will learn a bit more about the other,” he said.

“Whatever happens on Sunday we can take things away from it. It comes down to how much we learn about them and how much they learn about you.

“It’s very important for rugby to have a strong Argentina. They have always played a distinctive way and they have been a great World Cup team. They come together at World Cups and it has probably helped them not having a Super Rugby side.

“Having the Jaguares maybe took a little bit of the national emphasis away. The players come together now from all parts of the world and they are so proud to play for Argentina.”

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