The England and Jones squads are announced…

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Harry Mallinder after the Champions Cup qualifying final, May 2017

Here is the squad that will leave for Buenos Aires next Saturday – three Saints are in the squad with Tom Wood unavailable for selection after Friday’s match.

Forwards
Don Armand (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
Will Collier (Harlequins, uncapped)
Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
Dylan Hartley, captain (Northampton Saints, 84 caps)
Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 8 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, uncapped)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 42 caps)
Matt Mullan (Wasps, 15 caps)
Chris Robshaw, vice captain (Harlequins, 55 caps)
Nick Schonert (Worcester Warriors, uncapped)
Tommy Taylor (Wasps, 1 cap)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)

Backs 
Mike Brown, vice captain (Harlequins, 60 caps)
Danny Care, vice captain (Harlequins, 71 caps)
Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish, uncapped)
Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, 1cap)
Nathan Earle (Saracens, uncapped)
George Ford, vice captain (Bath Rugby, 36 caps)
Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Sam James (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Alex Lozowski (Saracens, uncapped)
Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Jack Maunder (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 25 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)
Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins, 11 caps)

As for the Joneses, the team selection is:

DrT (Northampton Saints, Tetley Stand)
MrsJ (Northampton Saints, photographer N1 and S1)
Cedric Bird (Northampton Saints, DrT’s pocket)

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Thanks for the lovely feedback, it’s time to say farewell…


All good things come to an end and today is our last day in Argentina. This country has been a complete surprise – its scenery is stunning; its people so friendly and welcoming and its history so fascinating. It’s a country with some serious challenges but it faces them with passion, determination and a refusal to give in. Where have we heard that before?

As for the rugby, we were privileged to see two very entertaining test matches and an England team that is set fair for the future. I loved the crowds, I loved the rugby – I was less convinced by the moat and the barbed wire.

And it’s been great sharing it with you via this blog. Thanks for the lovely feedback- it’s been great to hear you have enjoyed mine and DrT’s posts and pictures of our adventures.

See you next season,

Toodle pip,

MrsJ (and DrT and the Red Hat)

Day 8: The second test between Argentina and England. And we make many new friends…

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Match day arrived and this test match build up felt quite different to the previous test match in San Juan. The town was covered in pale blue and white and there were clearly a lot of people who had come to Santa Fe for the game. Our tour guide, Brian had to stay in a different hotel from us because our hotel was full.
It even started at breakfast when we had a brief chat with John Lacey, the match referee. John is a very approachable guy who we had spoken to before at breakfast in a hotel in Clermont. He mused about about the game at the Gardens against Stade Francais, almost telling himself off for missing the sending off of Rory Hutchinson and marvelling how the Saints had won having been down to 13 men.
En route back to our room, we were greeted by the sight of Nigel Owens getting out of the lift with three of our party. “That’s a bad way to start the day, being trapped in a lift with three Englishmen, Nigel!” I quipped. “It can only get better” he replied, smiling.
We wandered into town and en route spotted Los Pumpas. They are a mixed abilities rugby team who had been featured in the local paper the day before. They were delighted that we recognised them. There were many handshakes and hugs and a team photo with the two English visitors. I should say that DrT and I were appropriately dressed in our England shirts.
We headed further into town causing much interest amongst the locals. DrT was approached by the local radio station for an interview but his Spanish wasn’t quite up to it. Instead we sat in a local coffee shop drinking the best coffee we had had in days and listening to the locals passionately debating something. We had no idea what.

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En route back to the hotel, we bumped into a family from Córdoba. They were much taken by meeting two England supporters – the three young lads and Dad all sported their Jockey Club Rugby team shirts. Cue more handshakes and hugs and of course a photo.
Soon it was time to head to the ground. After the travails of getting to the match the previous week, our hosts had arranged hospitality. However, it was still a trauma getting to the ground and we ended up walking some distance to our destination. But it did give us a chance to see how the locals were getting ready for the game. I wish we had tried the local sausages but hospitality beckoned.


Where there had been nothing but the game in San Juan, in Santa Fe there were the usual merchandise shops, silly games and a band at the ground. This game was a much bigger deal.
Hospitality meant a lot of alcohol, some food and to my relief seats in the shade. The ground is the home of Colon Football Club and featured a moat to keep the supporters away from the pitch. That and yet more barbed wire as we had seen at the ground in San Juan.
The first games featured our new friends from Los Pumpas. The skill levels were actually very high – kids and adults of all ages played a good game which the enthusiastic crowd appreciated. We think Los Pumpas ran out winners but nobody really cared, it was just great to be playing on such an important occasion.

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The main event was just as hairum scarerum as the first match. First up was the warm up when we spotted Harry Mallinder running around the edge of pitch. Cue much shouting to Harry from the stands which caused several of the locals to join in and a grin and wave from Harry.
Piers Francis looks the real deal and paired up well with George Ford and despite his gaffe in the second half, I thought had a really good game. Chris Robshaw had a great game, he worked exceptionally well in both the lose and set piece. Danny Care was busy and his pass from the base didn’t involve the Mothers meetings he can be guilty of. Dylan was less vocal this week – maybe his team needed less guidance? We all spotted that Mike Brown had rediscovered his ability to pass such that two of the tries came from his breaks and passes. The Argentinians played well and are clearly happy with broken, fast paced rugby but aren’t quite accurate enough which in Test rugby is fatal.


England won the game and yet more trophies were handed to Dylan. We ambled our way through the crowds with yet more handshakes and photos – the locals were just as happy to meet us as before the game.
Time for some beer and a celebration of the series win which is exactly what we did.

Day 7: Mas Turismo, Mas Tango

Claire has a rule about taxis in foreign cities – if the driver is happy with the situation, then she’s happy. Well, when I asked for Gallerias Pacifico our driver was not happy! Much tutting and shaking of heads. I have no idea what he was worried about, and he crossed himself at least three times on the way, but he seemed much happier when we arrived. Perhaps it was just because it was Thursday.
In ersatz Paris, Gallerias Pacifico plays the role of Galleries Lafayette. Several malls of small shops on three levels meet in a central plaza with a grand domed ceiling covered with murals.

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Microcentro is the shopping district of the city and is largely pedestrianised, so it was a pleasant amble down Avenida Florida, towards Plaza de Mayo. Pleasant, though punctuated by regular offers of black market currency exchange (“cambiocambiocambio”) or invitations to Tango shows.
Approaching the La Catedral Metropolitana we saw that one of the diocesan seals near the door had been daubed with red paint. Clearly not everyone in this Catholic country is a fan of The Church. Inside the church was as ornate and decorated as you might expect, with a magnificent altar screen. In a side-chapel guarded by two young soldiers in ceremonial uniform, is a monument to the dead of the wars of Independence.


Leaving the cathedral we crossed into Plaza de Mayo, which is an open square with some small trees, a monument currently undergoing renovation and a bloomin’ great anti riot fence straight across the middle!
Thursday is, apparently, the favoured day for protest and Plaza de Mayo is the best place to do it. The Mothers of the Disappeared gather here regularly and other protests too. To ensure the protesters can’t get too close to La Casa Rosada, the police can close the roads and fill in the gaps with the mobile fencing that we saw earlier in the week. Well this was Thursday, there were a lot of police on the streets and an air of tension and expectation.


We crossed through one of the gaps in the fence to get a decent view of the Casa Rosada and Evita’s balcony to the left of the arch. We passed the Ministerio de Economica, which has fabulous metal used doors, and the Ministry of Defence. At this point a community patrol officer warned Claire to keep a hand on her camera. We walked a little further along Puerto Moreno but it was a lot less inviting on a windy grey morning than it had been in the sun earlier in the week.


After a more leisurely return to Cementerio de la Recoletta it was time to put on our glad rags and hit the town for a Tango show. We went to the Esquina Carlos Gardel at Chanta Cuatro. Dinner wasn’t great – we actually had poor steak – but the wine was good and kept flowing which made up for a lot.
The show was great though. The curtains opened to reveal a balcony with a small orchestra of piano, two accordions, two violins, a cello and a double bass. As they played their opening number, four couples filled the stage with artful dancing full of fast spins, lifts and intertwined legs.  We were then treated to some singing as a man, clearly made up to look like Gardel, sang “Buenos Aires mi Querido” and tried gamely to get some audience participation going but with little success. There were more dances including a particularly spectacular one involving a large glass of wine. The glass was carried throughout the dance by one or other of the dancers, and was finally dashed over the prostrate body of his partner by the male dancer having flung her across the stage in a final act of defiance and rejection!


Returning to the hotel at around midnight we saw on the news that the Avenida 9 de Julio had been shut at the Obelisco due to a protest. Well it was Thursday after all!

DrT

The England team for the second test is announced and it’s time for Tango…

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Eddie Jones has picked two Saints to start this week. Skipper Dylan Hartley and Saints new signing Piers Francis are both starting. I’m not surprised to see Piers start. He had a big impact when he came on last week.

I’m sad to see both Harry Mallinder and Jamal Ford-Robinson miss out. I’m sure both will have their time.

Now it’s time for Tango – DrT and I will be watching rather than participating. Anyone that knows me, knows I have two left feet and no sense of balance.

Oh and this week I will be drinking red wine.

Toodle pip!

MrsJ

Day 6: A Day on the Pampas

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Argentina’s economy is largely agrarian. Of the 45 million population, 14 million live in Buenos Aires and the remainder is spread very thinly, one person per square mile across the vast expanses of flat open country.

As a bit of as touristy treat, we were to spend the day with the gauchos at Estancia Santa Susana, a ranch about 40 miles outside BA (as we locals call it). As the bus pulled off the main road and into the ranch, we could see a number of low buildings in the rose terra-cotta color that seems to be traditional here.

We were met off the bus by a welcome of red wine (chilled, in polystyrene cups) and delicious empanadas. It was then time to sit down, relax and take in the scene. The scene is flat and enormous – grassland as far as the eye can see in all directions, punctuated with a few trees. There were lots of birds too. Some small hawks, smaller that a buzzard but bigger than a kestrel, and some bright green birds some of the party identified as parakeets.

And so I suppose it is time to confess the shocking truth. Whilst Claire and some of the other girls went on a very bumpy carriage ride, I went on a horse! We rode very gently in a group round a couple of fields. My horse clearly knew far more about what was going on than I did and treated me very gently. I can only comment that getting on and off a horse gracefully is clearly a skill, one I do not possess.

The sound of a clanging triangle called us in for lunch. We started with various lovely fresh salads of peppers and tomato, potato, shredded cabbage and lettuce. To these were added grilled meats, chorizo sausage, black pudding, chicken and steak. The consistency of the black pudding startled a few in our party as it is a lot less solid than UK varieties. This was all washed down with plenty of Norton (!) Classico vino tinto.

After lunch a short entertainment. We had some music, accordion and guitar, a (mercifully) short tango demonstration, then some gaucho dances. Particularly impressive was the bollas twirling dance where the sound of the bollas hitting the ground provides the rhythm.

All the visitors were then invited to join in with some very jolly dancing, and our group together with others from Poland, Australia and New Zealand joined with much enthusiasm and laughter.

Returning outside we were treated to a display of horsemanship as the gauchos showed us how to round up and control herds of horses and then finally a game where the riders would try to catch small rings suspended from a frame whilst riding at full gallop.

We drifted slowly back to the coach after what had been a relaxing and slow-paced break from the rest of the trip so far.

As a footnote, we passed Ford’s Pacheco Argentina assembly plant on the way back into the city. It was big and looked like every other Ford plant I have ever seen!

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DrT

Day 5: Buenos Aires pt 2 – What Shall We Have For Dinner, Then?

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JPs tweet came in whilst I was having my power nap (you have to work hard to maintain this level of performance).

Our Argentinian correspondent, Senor Estelles had promised to make some recommendations before we left home, so we were pleased to get a tip.

I wrote the address of La Carneceria on a piece of paper and after a fortifying drink at Buller home brew pub, I showed the paper to a taxi driver and we were off! At night the traffic is slightly less manic, though no less random and we got across the city in about 10 minutes.

The restaurant is tiny, snuggled away on a little back street. As we approached I noticed that you had to hang around the front door and wait for someone to open it for you.

A charming girl did that for me and when I told her that we had no reservation she asked if we would like to come back at 10.30! I must have looked a little crest-fallen as she went on to suggest that we came back in 20 minutes to try our luck. We retired to a cafe across the street and resolved to reserve for Monday if we couldn’t get in.

When we went back, the same waitress apologised and said that unfortunately all the reservations had arrived and that therefore there was no room. I was just about to give up and make that Monday reservation when an argument broke out amongst the waiting staff. Apparently one table was just signing the bill and they could fit us in when they left! We were handed a couple of menus to peruse, whilst still waiting outside before being ushered in to the small, brightly lit and bustly restaurant.

The grill made up one end of the room whilst the other featured a wall sized picture of carcasses hanging in a warehouse.

Our starters soon arrived together with a bottle of Malbec. Claire had black pudding and I had Chorizo sausage with fried eggs and peas.

The mains consisted of half a cow each. Claire’s parrilla cut was a huge rib of beef cooked rare. I had a smoked cut, a similarly sized slab of meat, lightly smoked with a consistency similar to (proper) corned beef. We had roast cabbage with broccoli and a stuffed baked potato as sides.

Finishing that lot we agreed that there was no need for pudding. All up the bill came to around 1900 Pesos, which we thought great value.

As we left we thanked the staff for a great evening and for managing to fit us in. Smiles, handshakes and “Buenos Noces” all round together with flagging down a taxi for us, ensured a great end to a memorable experience.

La Carniceria, 2317 Thames, Buenos Aires.

Thanks to Juan-Pablo – a top recommendation!

DrT