Ireland cannot afford to get distracted by next weekend’s clash with the All Blacks when they face a resurgent Argentina in Dublin, writes DYLAN JACK.
It happened in 2015, 2007 and 1999. At the World Cup, Argentina have proved to be a thorn in Ireland’s side.
Ireland fans will never forget the 2015 quarter-final defeat when, with a side that looked best placed to become the first in the country’s history to progress to the semi-finals, Argentina turned the game on its head to run out 43-20 winners.
Away from the World Cup, games between these two nations have always been tight. That result in 2015 was the largest winning margin (23 points) between Ireland and Argentina since their first formal Test in 1990. In the 16 matches since, which are counted as full internationals by both sides, Argentina have won six and Ireland 10.
While the Six Nations champions will be without experienced scrumhalf Conor Murray, regular frontline players such as Jonathan Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan will return to the starting lineup after sitting out the regulation victory over a second-string Italy.
Argentina, meanwhile, have looked a far better unit under new head coach Mario Ledesma, having picked up the scalps of the Springboks and Wallabies in the Rugby Championship. The former hooker took over from the long-reining Daniel Hourcade after a run of just two wins in 18 Test matches.
Under Ledesma, there seems to be a willingness for Argentina to move toward an open brand of rugby. Featuring a back three of fullback Emiliano Boffelli and wings Bautista Delguy and Ramiro Moyano, they averaged three tries per weekend in the Rugby Championship.
Strangely, it is Ledesma’s speciality, the scrum, that has been causing them the biggest headache. One cannot forget the way that All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe put the Pumas pack to the sword in September, so this is bound to be an area Ireland feel they can target.
The Irish will be taking on the All Blacks next weekend in a clash between the two best sides in the world. However, if they dare take their eyes away from Saturday’s clash, they can expect a seventh defeat to the Argentinians.
Ireland – 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Andrew Conway.
Argentina – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Guido Petti, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago García Botta
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Rodrigo Bruni, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Matias Moroni.
Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Getty Images