And here we go!
The final weekend of my favourite part of the rugby calendar is upon is and it has been massively positive for Ireland but we come up against the other old enemy this weekend, the 1 team that I cannot emotionally handle losing to anymore, the well-traveled Argentina.
Argentina comes in to this match at the end of a season where they have added more flyer miles than a Ryanair pilot on their frequent flyer card. An ageing team along with a massive amount of long haul flights (over 50 this year) may result in a wilting team. But they want to finish their season on a high; they always want to put one over Ireland. In 16 meetings, Argentina have only won 6 but they have won 2 of the important games in the world cup and these always stick in the craw.
In the last world cup, Ireland (and Ian Madigan) destroyed France and opened the door to make it to a world cup final only to come undone to a terrier like offloading machine that was Argentina on that day. It broke our hearts, and I am not quite over it yet.
Argentina is coming in with a near full strength side, skillful and menacing. They are in full flow but may be tiring.
Ireland comes in with a few changes.
Adam Byrne gets his first start on the wing, adding the new caps in November so far. This will be a bit day for Byrne, early on his defense will have to be on top level and as the game progresses he will get (along with Stockdale on the other wing) will get more changes to cut through Argentina. Toner has been left on the bench so Henderson and James Ryan start in the second row. Hendo has been back to his baby-faced assassin best and he will be the lead man in the second row for the opening 10. Ryan will come into the game and perform well.
Healy starts in the front row so the rejuvenation continues for Church. Absolutely deserved. The Irish backrow is pornographic in nature. O’Mahony, O’Brien and the bank, CJ Stander. Nothing really needs to be said, in Jamie Heaslips absence this is our 100% top line starting backrow. Every team on the planet looks at that formation with envy.
The main absentee is Robbie ‘The Hensh’ Henshaw. His hamstring just can’t handle the power, so Chris Farrell partners Bundee Aki in the midfield. Massive hits are to be expected, I would suggest Argentina will aim for Farrell due to his inexperience. He will not be found wanting.
The team looks balanced, battle ready, inventive and in place to put a lot of points on the Argentinians. And this is massively important (maybe just for me). While we have been beating Los Pumas in most friendlies/November tests, we need to put that emotional bullet in their brain so that if/when it comes to a world cup they will second guess themselves. Argentina has already said that if they don’t win tomorrow it doesn’t matter because they have won in the world cups. This is a get out of jail free card; it covers them in case of a loss. It is quite smart from them. If Ireland put a lot of points on them, and really put them to the sword on Saturday then it will always fester in the psyche and that is what Ireland need to do.
A start like was seen against the Springboks is needed along with the concentration, lack of penalties conceded and a strong set piece should lay the groundwork for an at least 3 score win.
Championship minutes need to be dominated. Against Fiji the inexperience showed, without main leaders back in the team I expect Ireland to put points on the board early and then score big each side of half time before handling an Argentinian comeback midway through the second half before they wilt and the scoreboard looks even better.
Once this game is over, Ireland will be in a fantastic position heading into the business end of provincial European rugby and into the 6 Nations 2018. €10 says Ireland win the championship.
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Until next time.