PREVIEW: Ireland v Argentina

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 07:54
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NOVEMBER INTERNATIONAL SEASON: Revenge will not be on Ireland's minds when they face Argentina on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.

It will be the first time the two sides meet since the Pumas dashed Ireland's 2015 World Cup hopes in a 43-20 quarterfinal victory.

Instead, Irish coach Joe Schmidt expects a "challenging day" even against a side that has won just two Tests this year and only ended a seven match losing run against Six Nations whipping boys Italy last Saturday.

It certainly promises to be a baptism of fire for a raw and inexperienced centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell, who have won one cap - the experienced Robbie Henshaw having been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

"They [the Pumas] have a host of threats out there and it will be a really challenging day," said Schmidt, whose side are bidding to round off the November Tests with a perfect played three, won three.

"The type of player they have will be a real challenge for us.

"The footwork of Matias Moroni and Santiago Gonzalo Iglesias and with Nicolas Sanchez (who orchestrated the World Cup victory, scoring 23 of their points) directing affairs will be a real Test."

Schmidt, whose side have posted a record 38-3 victory over South Africa before a second string team eked out a 23-20 win over Fiji, said Henshaw's injury and that of three other potential first choice centres was unfortunate, but the players would have to cope.

"They will have to independently survive and not have someone directing them round the pitch," said Schmidt.

"We want to play through destabilising periods and that really started last November scrambling our way to victory over Australia with several injuries throughout the match and having to switch players to positions they weren't accustomed to."

Schmidt, who has handed a first Test cap to wing Adam Byrne, said there is no point in motivating the players into thinking of Saturday's match as a revenge mission.

"First of all there are only at most half a dozen of our players from that match playing on Saturday," said the 52-year-old New Zealander.

"It is not to my mind a grudge match.

"If we are looking back two years ago, how can we look forward? There is a real danger in looking too far back.

"This is just about trying to get a bit of cohesion."

Rob Kearney, one of the few to have played that day in 2015 and to be picked again on Saturday, says the defeat was crushing morale wise but that he and the team have moved on since then, especially with the arrival of Andy Farrell as defence coach.

"We'd like to think we are a very different team than we were two years ago," said the 31-year-old fullback, who will win his 78th cap.

"We've changed our defence system significantly. We defended poorly that day."

Argentina at least arrive emboldened by the win over Italy - one which their assistant coach Pablo Bouza told AFP earlier in the week was a "must win" match - but flanker Pablo Matera admits the Irish team they play on Saturday is a different proposition to the "tidy" and more predictable one he and his team-mates beat in 2015.

"They are a really unpredictable team and I think they are not just a physical team," said the 24-year-old, who despite his youth already has 45 caps to his credit.

"They have a lot of options in attack and you need to be really concentrated in defence because you never know where they will attack you."

Players to watch:

For Ireland: In the backline the key players are flyhalf Johnny Sexton and scrumhalf Conor Murray, who will be pulling the strings behind the powerful Irish pack. No.8 Christiaan Stander is regaining his best form, after - by his standards - a mediocre year. The massive frame of Tadhg Furlong will be more than just a handful for the Argentineans.

For Argentina: If their pack gets on top of the Irish they will have a real chance of an upset. That is why hard-working captain Agustin Creevy needs support from the likes of Tomas Lavanini, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Santiago Garcia Botta. They key backline player for Argentina is inside centre Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias - the second playmaker.

Head to head: As always, there are interesting battles all over the field. However, a couple stand out. Top of the list is the face-off of the captains - veteran hookers Rory Best (Ireland) and Agustin Creevy (Argentina) - two of the very best in the business. The other is in midfield, where New Zealander Bundee Aki will want to convince his detractors he is the right choice for his adopted country, Ireland. He is up against the equally wile and skilful Argentinean Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.

Recent results:
2015: Argentina won 43-20, Cardiff (World Cup quarterfinal)
2014: Ireland won 23-17, Tucuman
2014: Ireland won 29-17, Resistencia
2012: Ireland won 46-24, Dublin
2010: Ireland won 29-9, Dublin
2008: Ireland won 17-3, Dublin
2007: Argentina won 30-15, Paris (World Cup pool match)
2007: Argentina won 16-0, Buenos Aires
2007: Argentina won 22-20, Sante Fe
2004: Ireland won 21-19, Dublin

Prediction: You can put good money - perhaps not your house - on an Irish win. Argentina's only wins in the last 12 months have been against Italy (last week) and Georgia (in June). Of course the Pumas can win, but don't bet on it. Ireland should win by at least 10 points.

Teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.        
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway.

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 17.30 (17.30 GMT, 14.30 Argentina Time)
Expected weather: Partly sunny and chilly. High of  5°C and a low of 1°C
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com