Ireland v Argentina - teams and prediction
LAST DANCE: A first-ever win for Argentina in Dublin over an Ireland side coming off a victory over New Zealand would be “massively good” for the Pumas at the end of a long season, said assistant coach Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
The former back row forward – celebrating his 40th birthday on Friday – added it would be nothing less than the squad deserved after almost 16 weeks away from home.
They gained a confidence boost last Saturday when they snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating Italy, but meet a side on Sunday that is bidding for an eighth successive Test win.
“I think it has been a long, hard and intense year. Beginning in mid-July, it has been nearly 16 weeks away from home for almost everyone,” Fernandez Lobbe said at a press conference on Friday.
“So to finish, what we really want to do is go out there into a full stadium, say ‘OK we did everything in training and preparing’.
“The game will decide whether we win or lose but we will play a game on Sunday full of intent, and what we want to do is finish with a win which would be massively good for this group of players as they deserve it for the effort they put in.”
Fernandez Lobbe enjoyed some memorable wins over the Irish, at the 2007 World Cup and when they overwhelmed Ireland in the 2015 quarter-final.
However, he says the Irish side he watched beat the All Blacks 29-20 last Saturday was on a different level to their predecessors.
“Definitely we want to break the deadlock,” he said, with Argentina winless on nine previous trips to Dublin.
“We are going in the right direction.”
“It is going to be very, very tough as Ireland are coming out of one of the biggest games they played.
“It was not only the result, but the way they dominated and controlled the outcome in nearly every situation was the most impressive part of their game.”
For all their dominance of Argentina when they have met in November Tests in Dublin the Irish, unlike the Pumas, are yet to make a World Cup semifinal.
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Argentina reached the last four twice (2007 and 2015) and Fernandez Lobbe said the recipe for such success is simple.
“I would not dare to speak on what is going on with Irish rugby,” he said.
“But what happened for us was when you have a group of players all tuning into the same frequency with the same goal and same purpose.
“You also need the rugby gods bouncing your way, you always need a bit of luck, and I think that happened in 2007 and 2015, two groups of players believing in themselves.
“If they [the Irish] put effort into it and believe in the process that will open the gates, though it is never easy as other nations want those spots.”
Ireland’s dominant performance over New Zealand last Saturday was down to “bold” selection decisions by coach Andy Farrell, but former Test prop Marcus Horan says the Irish must not get ahead of themselves.
Farrell’s men will bid to round off the year with an eighth consecutive win when they host Argentina – so often their bogey side at the Rugby World Cup.
Despite the side’s recent impressive form Horan warned against complacency ahead of the tournament in less than two years’ time.
Horan – an integral part of the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam winning side – has been at the wrong end of a Pumas defeat in the disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign which saw them exit at the group stage.
Ireland had gone into the sport’s quadrennial showpiece event on the back of winning the Triple Crown and finishing second in the Six Nations on points difference to France.
“There are too many factors at play to be honest to say hang our hat on that win over the All Blacks for the Rugby World Cup,” he told AFP.
“We [in 2007] came off a really good Six Nations and it backfired on us.
“You get hit by a couple of injuries and it is game over, teams need a lot of things aligned, luck is needed, decisions going your way otherwise the rug gets pulled from under you.
“I have seen it so many times.”
Horan – a two-time European Cup winner with Munster – said there are a lot of positives to be taken out of the win over the All Blacks.
“I think for us it makes the squad a lot more confident after a performance like that and beating teams like that,” he said.
“But there are too many variables between now and 2023.
“If we lose a game in the Six Nations are we going to say is that the end of our hopes?
“Perspective is very important.”
Horan said Farrell deserves credit for leaving experienced players like Munster trio Conor Murray, Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony on the bench.
Instead he placed his confidence in Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park, James Lowe and Caelan Doris – the latter two repaid that by scoring tries in the win over the All Blacks.
“Farrell has made bold decisions leaving guys out and on the bench,” said Horan.
“A Munster man might feel aggrieved about that but Leinster are the dominant force at the moment (12 of the starting side were from the province).
“The guys stepped up to that.”
Johnny Sexton had spoken of how reassuring it was to see Murray and Earls (both with over 90 caps) and O’Mahony (who has more than 70) coming on to replace tired legs.
Horan said it was testament to good man management the older heads had not taken umbrage at being replacements.
“Some of the guys are in the twilight of their career but look at their performances last Saturday,” he said.
“The guys who came on had as much of an impact.
“Give credit to management they have handled egos and people really well.
“The bravery of coaches to make decisions like that over someone with the experience of Peter O’Mahony stands out.
“The professionalism of Peter and Conor Murray to put the disappointment aside shows what a great team and squad effort it was.
“There is a good mix of youth and experience which is exciting but whether all the guys will be involved in the World Cup is debatable.”
Horan said this empathy – of helping one’s rivals for a starting spot – which is a feature of the present squad was reflected by Sexton’s praise for his most likely successor Joey Carbery.
Carbery came on for Sexton with 16 minutes remaining and kicked three crucial penalties – erasing some bitter memories of two years ruined by injury.
“Johnny respects quality players,” said Horan.
“There is no doubt he is the last player who ever wants to leave a game early.
“However, for a guy [Carbery] to step in and have the ability to do what he did, he [Sexton] really respects that.
“Johnny is never going to give it up [his shirt] you will have to wrench it off him but he would be the first to help if Carbery were eventually to do that.”
Players to watch
For Ireland: British and Irish Lions centre Robbie Henshaw gets his first start for Ireland since recovering from a foot injury. The 28-year-old partners Garry Ringrose in the midfield. Henshaw has yet to play this season even for his province Leinster, but coach Andy Farrell has no concerns about him being ring rusty having performed well in training. The Munster duo of flyhalf Joey Carbery and scrumhalf Conor Murray come in for the injured Johnny Sexton and Jamison Gibson Park respectively. Robert Baloucoune, 24, starts instead of Andrew Conway on the wing with James Lowe – perhaps Ireland’s most improved player with outstanding displays against Japan and the All Blacks – starting his third successive match on the other wing.
For Argentina: The Pumas received a lift as veteran second row forward Guido Petti was restored to the starting line-up after the 27-year-old missed the 37-16 victory over Italy due to a knee problem. Former captain Pablo Matera, who like Petti was a member of the side that beat Ireland in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal, will win his 80th cap. Another veteran scrumhalf, Tomas Cubelli, will win his 82nd cap and is partnered at halfback by Santiago Carreras. Hooker Julian Montoya captains the side, a man that Irish skipper James Ryan described as one of the best players in the world at the moment due to the number of turnovers he has won this year.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Ireland by 19 points
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Keith Earls.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Santiago Grondona, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Kodela Gomez, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Ignacio Calles, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou 22 Nicolás Sanchez 23 Facundo Cordero.
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT; 11.15 ART)
Expected weather: Mostly sunny with a passing shower in the afternoon. High of 9°C and a low of 4°C
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Adam Leal (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)