Moody blues won’t lessen Stevens World Cup hunger

ENGLAND front-row Matt Stevens cannot wait to put his scrummaging powers to what he considers to be the ultimate test, a World Cup clash against Argentina – with or without captain Lewis Moody.

Flanker Moody will not be ready to return from a knee injury when Martin Johnson’s men begin their tournament against the Pumas in New Zealand on Saturday, it emerged yesterday.

But Saracens prop Stevens, who rates the South Americans among the very best packs on the planet, is unflinchingly focused on getting England’s campaign Down Under off to the best possible start.

“Argentina have got some great front rows and we are relishing the challenge. Front row players get better with age and that is the case of Argentina,” he said. “Their front row would definitely be pushing to be the best in the world. They are good ball carriers as well, not just scrummagers.

“What you notice about Argentinian sides is that it is an eight-man effort. I think they were the first team to really spearhead scrummaging as an eight.

“That is what we have done as a pack in the last four or five years. We have tried to push our work with the clubs and with England to scrum as an eight.

“New Zealand are very good at it, the South Africans are coming up but the Argentina spearheaded it in and we are matching them.”

James Haskell is likely to replace Moody at openside, with centre Mike Tindall taking over the captaincy, but Johnson expects his skipper to be in contention for the second pool match against Georgia eight days later.

“He has been running around today so he is not a million miles away,” said Johnson. “It is just one of those calls: ‘are you ready to participate fully this week and play a Test match this Saturday?’ Not quite.”

LIKELY TEAM | ENGLAND V ARGENTINA

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12. M TINDALL (GLOUCESTER) (CAPTAIN)

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2. S THOMPSON (WASPS)

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