Oh, Them Again

The build-up to this game has focused strongly on the history of needle and grudge between the sides.  However, the absence of Roncero, O’Gara, Ledesma, Leamy and Contepomi might mean we can move on and – who knows – a game of rugby could briefly break out amid the sledging and shady breakdown activities.  Argentina have evolved – post 2007, their sights have been set a lot higher than scrapping out with Ireland for the leftovers from the top table. Their debut season in the Rugby Championship was impressive and will have given them much tougher tests than Ireland have had this season.  They’re battle-hardened and cohesive.

The Puma tour to date has consisted of a surprisingly easy win in the Millennium Stadium, followed by a surprisingly heavy defeat to the French in Lille. The Welsh defeat to Samoa has reduced the value of the first a little, but taking a beating rom France doesn’t look too bad in light of their evisceration of the Wallabies the previous week. Ireland, of course, were limply defeated by the Springboks, then played a meaningless non-Test rout of Fiji the week after – they’ll either be raring to go or as drab and unimaginative as ever.  Probably both.

We can expect a punishing battle up front with the heavyweight Argentinian tight 5  – Mike Ross apparently managed to do enough in 53 minutes against Fiji to convince Deccie he is still the rightful heir to the great John Hayes, upon whose watch the Ireland scrum rarely creaked like it has of late (right, folks?), and the Corkman should be able to take the Puma pressure upfront. We hope what must have been a bizarre week for Ross finishes on a high.  However, Ireland have two relatively light locks and this could be a tougher test for them than the Boks provided – Eben Etzebeth is still a nipper and Juandre Kruger something of a journeyman.

The winning of the game will likely be in the backrow and halves, and specifically in the battle of the captains – Jamie Heaslip against Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. Whichever of these two is more prominent is likely to be the one in the winning side. Fernandez Lobbe produced perhaps his best performance in the Puma shirt against Wales and will take some stopping – but stop him and it’s half the battle. From an Irish perspective, we’d like to see Peter O’Mahony more prominent. Worries about his physical readiness for Test rugby are still gnawing at us. Chris Henry has deserved his extended chance in the 7 shirt, and we also want to see something specific from him – staying on the pitch for 80 minutes. In the HEC quarter-final against Munster and the Fiji game, he got binned for ruck offences – but at this level you need to be a little cuter. It’s pointless to tell him be to be Ruchie, but perhaps he should try to be Chris Robshaw – tough and nuggety, but someone who will grind away for the entire 80.

Ireland have the advantage in the quarterback department – El Mago may be ludicrously talented, but he’s barely got his shirt dirty since his finest hour in 2007, and in any case, he’ll start at fullback with Nicolas Sanchez at 10. In contrast, since Hernandez’ finest hour, Johnny Sexton has three HEC winners medals and an ever-increasingly scrapbook of memorable moments – if Ireland can control the set piece and breakdown, Sexton will win the game.

Outside the halves, it could be about keeping your hands warm. Argentina will assuredly send up a few bombs to test the green and fresh Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy – if the kicks are accurate the ensuing rucking will be furious and work in the Pumas favour, if they are not and the tyros get space to run, Ireland could be in business. Ireland’s kicking game in the absence of Bob has in general been pretty average and we don’t expect anything different on Saturday – but with Argentina not having the same strike runners out wide as Ireland do, it’s unlikely to be punished.

So, what do we expect? The Argentinian pack is superior to Ireland’s, but the Irish backs are more threatening. If Ireland somehow manage to get a lot of good ball, they should have enough talent to win, but if it descends into muck and rucks, it will be Argentina’s to lose. The best kicker in the Puma squad is Martin Bustos Moyano, but its Santiago Fernandez who will probably stand over the kicks – and he ain’t got the mental.

We are wavering, but in close contests, the team with a definable gameplan and confidence in its execution normally prevails – there is one team like that in this game .. and it ain’t Ireland. Still, we travel in hope, and wouldn’t it be funny to see the bed-wetting in the press if a certain apple-cheeked Corkman came off the bench to drop a winning goal after, I don’t know, say 41 phases? RADGE!!!

Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, K Earls, G D’Arcy, C Gilroy; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; D Ryan, M McCarthy; P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, M Bent, D O’Callaghan, I Henderson, E Reddan, R O’Gara , F McFadden.

Argentina: J M Hernandez; G Camacho, M Bosch, S Fernandez, J Imhoff; N Sanchez, M Landajo; M Ayerza, E Guinazu, M Bustos; M Carizza, J F Cabello; J M Fernandez Lobbe (capt), J M Leguizamon, L Senatore.

Replacements: A Ceevy, N Lobo, F Gomez Kodela, T Vallejos Cinalli, T Leonardi, N Vergallo, G Tiesi, M Montero.

Note: if Ireland lose they will be ranked in the third tier for the RWC draw, but Argentina are much closer to being safely in the top 8 already – if they lose by less than 15 points, they are likely to still make it – it’s all here. The prime advantage of being seeded second is avoiding the hosts, England – as the Mole will explain.

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  1. I fancy Ireland, simply because our need is greater (read: desperate) than theirs. Gilroy could be a nasty surprise for the Pumas and (we live in hope) might even indicate an expansive game plan from Ireland, to move the Puma pack around. Think Ireland will edge this by 6-10 points.

  2. Leinsterlion

     /  November 23, 2012

    Based on the past performances(2nd test NZ, AUS in WC) we could perform well and possibly shade it. But based on form, gameplan, personnel and coaching staff i’d rate the Pumas to win by 10.
    The ref could play a big part in how the game goes, If he lets Argentina play at a higher tempo I dont think Ireland could live with with them. I expect it to be a reversal of traditional roles with Ireland wanting a scrap and the Argies looking to play fast ball.

  3. Len

     /  November 23, 2012

    Would love to think we could shade it but keep thinking how they put Wales away. Does anyone know who the ref is? If its Poite we’re sunk.

  4. In my view, Lobbe is the best non-New Zealand player in the world this year. I’d have Kieran Read, Sur Ritchie, Dan Carter and maybe Conrad Smith ahead of him in some sort of non-position-specific, half-assed list of those at the top of the game, but there’s no doubt at all that Lobbe is right up there. He has been nothing short of magnificent, and he [like Pichot before him] is an absolute charisma factory. Even though the Pumas are probably one of the most negative teams in world rugby at slowing the ball and in general bringing a load of oul’ fellah gamesmanship to the breakdown, referees still love JMFL.

    It’s also great when he says “Good evening everybody” at the start of the post-game interviews – the lad is pure class.

    • No doubt about it Mole, Lobbe is outstanding. A warrior, a leader and with awesome football skills. Haven’t seen too many of his post-game interviews, but that has only increased my admiration for the man.

      He plays his club rugby in the backrow for Toulon alongside Steffan Armitage and van Niekerk. Some unit.

      • On an aside of coaches ignoring players, could someone explain why Armitage is not in the England set-up…and being ignored by most pundits for the Lions tour? I saw Lancaster laughably suggesting that the best player in the Top14 wasn’t fit this week.

  5. WOC you are too hard on POM. According to Frankie Sheahan, the problem with the selection is that Stakhanov should be starting, with Ryan at 6 and O’Mahony at 7 http://frontrow.ie/?p=1253 #theypaythisguyforrugbyanalysis

    • Rich

       /  November 23, 2012

      Wow!! Seriously. Wow. And I criticise Guscotts col on the BBC for being clueless and one sided…..

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 23, 2012

      Nomination for worst pundit of the year right there(and thats saying something, considering the deep field we are working with)…..There should be an end of season awards for ridiculous statements from the scribes and talking heads that populate the Irish rugby universe. A Golden Raspberry for terrible punditry.

    • Jesus that was appalling but at least it was on his own website. Hearing him on TV is another thing. For such an average player in his day he gets a lot of airtime.

    • It’s pleasantly reassuring to see that everything he said was shown up to be bone-headed idiocy! Play simple rugby and try and take Argentina on in an arm wrestle?! Nice idea Frankie, let’s play it how they like it.

      As well as the laughable Munster and ‘My Client’ bias, Frankie is also notable for always calling for the most reductive and boring brand of rugby possible.

  6. I’m going to say it straight out of the blocks, I’m kind of hoping for an Argentian win (would it really be that bad if we finished outside the top 8?), if anything it may speed up Kidneys departure.

    Argentina play a brand of rugby that suits their team, we do not. While it may not be pretty all the time, it has got them results and kept them in touch with the SH teams more often than not.

    Ireland’s pack should be on a par with these boys but I think the current world’s 2nd best international backpower leads them on to superhero feats that we are not capable of at the minute,

    On paper we have a very good team, we’re just not playing like one. I’ve seen Babas teams play with more direction.

    In my humble opinion Ireland, using the four provinces, under a different coach (which should be picked by a better mind than me) could be 6 nations champions.

    Until then vita los pumas, but maybe that’s Argentian great granny speaking…

    • Kidney is going to see out his contract, regardless of results. Seems to me the IRFU want to save face and cash. I never want Ireland to lose, so a win here and 3rd in the spring will placate me. Then let us never speak of Kidders again.

  7. Pete

     /  November 25, 2012

    Curate’s Egg, Armitage is almost definitely a victim of protectionist policies; that, or Lancaster is even denser than first though, which would be saying something.

    Looking forwards to people’s reactions to that victory – don’t think anyone saw it coming!

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