Ireland begin life without Brian O'Driscoll against an unforgiving Argentinian team in Resistencia on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The former Irish captain called time on his illustrious career over the weekend and has left a gaping whole in the Irish midfield. Paul O'Connell will lead the team in his absence but having used (some might say overused) O'Driscoll at centre for well over a decade, the time has come to find a suitable replacement.
Unfortunately for coach Joe Schmidt, an injury to Robbie Henshaw has scuppered his plans to blood the talented Connaght centre in the hostile environs of South America. Darren Cave, capped only five times for his country, will be the man tasked with filling O'Driscoll's famed No 13 jersey.
The Irish boast a positive record against Argentina, but it's a considerably different picture when looking at games played away from Europe. Ireland have never managed a win in Argentina, going down on each of their previous three visits, the last being a 16-0 loss in 2007.
They will face an Argentinian team shorn of its stars, though, with Juan Martín Hernández, Marcelo Bosch and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe the notable absentees for the match against the Irish. They have opted for Martín Landajo and Nicolás Sánchez as their preferred halfback combination, while Manuel Carizza will add some much-needed experience in the forward pack.
Ireland have also taken it upon themselves to try some new players at Test level, with South African-born flanker Robbie Diack handed his debut on the side of the scrum. Connacht scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and prop Rodney Ah You will make their debuts from the bench.
Meanwhile, captain O'Connell will be partnered by Iain Henderson in the second row, pitting the most experienced campaigner with the youngest player in the squad.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Tomás De la Vega, 6 Rodrigo Baez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Matías Cortese, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Ireland – 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Argentina 5, Ireland 8
In Argentina: Argentina 3, Ireland 0
O'DRISCOLL'S STATS THAT MATTER
133 – The number of Tests he's played for Ireland
83 – The number of times he's captained them
46 – The number of tries he's scored for Ireland
Photo: Tom Shaw/Getty Images