Preview: Argentina v Ireland
The Six Nations champions against the Rugby Championships' last-placed team. rugby365 looks at the Test in Resistencia.
The Six Nations champions against the Rugby Championships' last-placed team.
Given that the Pumas are further depleted by the absence of most of their European-based players (because this falls outside the IRB Test window), this should be a walk in the park for the men from the Emerald Isle.
However, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt doesn't buy into that 'favourites' tag hype.
Schmidt said he is keen to see how his players react to being taken "out of their comfort zone", as they arrived in the northern Argentinian outpost of Resistencia only on Monday this week and had limited preparation time.
He is also looking forward to seeing how the new combinations fare this weekend.
"If the opportunity is afforded to you, then I think you've got to reciprocate with the best performance you can put together," Schmidt said.
"The way the players have trained this week that's certainly what they are working towards with the combinations we have, with the combative nature of the way the Argentinians play.
"They are a little bit unknown, they are a little bit harder to predict than other teams we have played.
"Then to be able to react and endure what will be a pretty tough Test match in a very tough environment, it's going to give us a bit more information about how these guys will cope in the future."
The Six Nations winners will take part in the first Test match to be played in the Chaco province on the Paraguayan border on a tighter than normal pitch.
Throw a forecast of thunder storms into the mix and the fact that Argentina will field a team of relatively unknown younger players in the absence of most of their French and English-based stars, and Ireland's Kiwi coach may have reason to be concerned about what lies ahead.
Schmidt is handing Robbie Diack his Ireland debut, with Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You likely to win their first caps off the bench in a side that sees a raft of changes from the Six Nations.
"I'm never confident, but I'm always hopeful," said the coach.
"Particularly when there are eight changes from the last time we played. We've had two training sessions and we have picked this team for the first time.
"To be hopeful that the combinations will work well is the best I can do at this stage.
"It's definitely a challenge. They have got a pitch that is slightly smaller. Looking at the stands and things it is not quite our home ground [in Dublin]."
Puma coach Daniel Hourcade's charges may lack experience, but they have played two recent matches in the South American Championship, running in 10 tries - including four for wing Manuel Montero - during a 65-9 hammering of Uruguay on May 17.
A week later, the Pumas went one better, notching 11 tries as they coasted to a 73-12 win over Chile.
Of the team that started that day in Santiago, fullback Joaquin Tuculet, centre Gabriel Ascarate and the halfbacks are retained along with Tomas Lavanini in the second row.
Players to watch:
For Argentina: You start with captain Martín Landajo, who will play a pivotal role as scrumhalf and skipper. There is Stormers lock Manuel Carizza, although he may be a but short on match fitness after only recently returning from injury. Flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux-Bègles) and tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera (Castres Olympique) are two of the few European-based players in the side.
For Ireland: No doubt Ulster's Robbie Diack will be in the spotlight, given that he joins fellow South African Richardt Strauss in recent additions from the Republic of SA to the Irish ranks. For the rest you can look at the usual suspects - stalwarts like Paul O'Connell (as captain), Mike Ross and Rory Best. Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will also be key to their cause.
Head to head: In the absence of legend Brian O'Driscoll the new Irish midfield partnership of Darren Cave and Luke Marshall will be tested by the Puma pair of Jerónimo de la Fuente and Gabriel Ascarate. The flyhalves will also be crucial - where Nicolás Sánchez (Argentina) faces off against Jonathan Sexton (Ireland). The other key battle could be in the set pieces, especially the second row battle - Tomas Lavanini and Manuel Carizza (Argentina) versus Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Iain Henderson.
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
2003: Ireland won 16-15, Adelaide (World Cup pool match)
2002: Ireland won 16-7, Dublin
2000: Argentina won 34-23, Buenos Aires
Prediction: The depth, or lack thereof, in Argentina is what is going to be crucial. Ireland may be brining in a few newcomers and have lost a legend (Brian O'Driscoll), but they have the core of their victorious Six Nations squad together, which will give them the edge. Ireland to win by 15 points.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (captain), 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.
Replacements: 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 (captain), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 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.
Date: Saturday, June 7
Venue: Estadio Centenario, Resistencia
Kick-off: 15.40 (18.40 GMT; 19.40 Irish time)
Expected weather: Sunny with cloudy periods with a slight chance of showers. High of 18°C, low of 11°C
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)