Ireland and France simply 'the best'
SPOTLIGHT: Ireland and France share top billing as the teams to have impressed in the November Tests said Argentina coach Mario Ledesma after his side were defeated 7-53 by the Irish in Dublin on Sunday.
The hosts ran in seven tries in what was a record win for them over a side that has so often been their bogey team at the World Cup while falling short on the 10 occasions they have played Ireland in Dublin.
The Irish were helped by the Pumas’ ill-discipline with Pablo Matera yellow-carded and then second row forward Tomas Lavanini seeing red with just over 20 minutes remaining for connecting with prop Cian Healy’s neck with a shoulder charge.
However, Ledesma said based on their overall performance and previous wins over Japan (60-5) and New Zealand last weekend (29-20), the Irish were clearly progressing under Andy Farrell.
“France [who beat the Pumas 29-20 a fortnight ago] and Ireland were the best teams of the international window,” said Ledesma at his post-match press conference.
“Obviously the level they showed against the All Blacks and how they dominated them throughout the 80 minutes was quite impressive so, yes, I would say they are a hugely improved team from a couple of years back.”
A run of eight successive Test wins has vindicated the more expansive agame that Farrell has adopted since succeeding the hugely successful Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup.
However, the former English Rugby League great remained humble about the advances made and took more pleasure out of the heightened competition for places.
“That is why I say it is the most pleasing day for me, it is how we have grown as a group,” he said.
“Those lads deserved their chance out there today.
“We are building nicely and have more depth.”
‘Tough as well’
Farrell praised the inexperienced halfbacks he sent on early in the second-half, scrumhalf Craig Casey and flyhalf Harry Byrne, as well as try-scoring replacement hooker Dan Sheehan.
“I thought the halfbacks came on and speeded the game up.
“Dan Sheehan has such presence in defence and line-speed.”
Byrne may have speeded the game up but the foundations had been laid by Joey Carbery with his kicking at goal keeping the scoreboard ticking whilst also producing some excellent positional kicks.
The 26-year-old Munster playmaker won the man of the match award, rounding off a month where he has regained his mantle – after almost two years of injury problems – as number two to talismanic captain Johnny Sexton at flyhalf.
Peter O’Mahony, who took over the captaincy on the pitch after James Ryan failed a head injury assessment, praised Carbery for the manner of his return to the side.
“It has been great for him because he has had a rough 18-month period,” said O’Mahony, who got a late call-up to the starting XV when Jack Conan failed a fitness test on Sunday.
“He’s an incredible professional. He just kept at it and put his head down and he has been gathering momentum
“It is tough in rehab, it is a hard old place to be.
“However, he has come back and added to the environment and enjoyment whilst his performances have allowed him to grow his experience which is important for him.”
O’Mahony was incensed at the time by Lavanini’s charge on Healy but struck a more conciliatory tone in the press conference.
“From his [Lavanini] point of view it is tough as well,” said O’Mahony.
“It is literally a fraction of a second.
“Yes I was pissed off but like I say I have been on the other side [he was sent off in the Six Nations match against Wales earlier this year].
“The disappointment of a red card for your country I would not wish it on anyone.”