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Following on from our trip to Chicago, our decimation of Italy and our salivating over Jordan Larmour and his feet, we roll home into the Aviva stadium and welcome another old enemy. Argentina are here for a scalp; Ireland are here to exorcise a demon.
The team has been selected and the selection is a step up from the Italian game. The appearance of Joe managing the quick turnaround in the opening games of the world cup is becoming evident. Getting everyone who is fit on to the pitch in November will pay dividends next year.
So let’s look at the team:
The first thing to jump out is the 15 jersey. Larmour is back in after running the studs off his boots last week. The logical thinking was to start Conway at full back with Earls and Stockdale and bring Larmour on for 20 minutes of higher intensity test rugby. That would be dependent on if Kearney is fit for next week. Larmours starting birth shows that the coaching staff are confident that Kearney senior will be ready, and Larmour is the next in line. Rumours of Addison slipping in at 15 for this game where interesting but turned out to be a red herring.
The next big call was the second row. Henderson is in ahead of Toner to partner the irreplaceable 9can we clone him) James Ryan. Another interesting move and shows more cards to the opposition next week. Toner has a lot of minutes played this season, Henderson is the next in line but needs game time. Will be interesting to see how they operate in the lineout which is probably where Argentina will hope to get into the game. They have 3 really good jumpers in there and Ireland will have to be on their toes. Big pressure on the green second row to perform in the lineout.
The rest of the team nearly picks itself. The captain is back, Sean O’Brien is back and Aki steps in for an injured Ringrose which makes sense. Expect another big shift from Aki this week.
As for Argentine, what will they bring? They have only beaten 2 top 5 teams in the last 18 months. Australia and South Africa, they should have had a win against the All Blacks but it just didn’t happen for them. They are here with nothing to lose and are in transition possibly aiming at RWC 2023. So they will be dangerous. A few things will happen, they will test Larmour with high balls, they will try to make inroads in the Irish lineout and they will try to disrupt the scrum. They also have an interesting stat of having the second most defenders beaten in the Rugby Championship, only second to New Zealand. They will come and have a go. Ireland need to start like they did last week, but cannot afford that 12-15-minute relaxation they had last week. I do not expect it, mainly because the players don’t want to be on the receiving end of another angry Joe half time team talk.
The bookies have a 17 point spread in this game which sounds crazy. It is the second best team in the world playing the 11th best team, and in any other sport it would be seen as a relatively easy day at the office for Ireland, but it won’t be. I do still expect a 10-point win but it will not be easy. If Ireland win the toss and kick to Argentina they will kick right back to Larmour and put him under pressure. Kick and press in the hope that a weak link will be found.
I don’t think it will be and Ireland will march into the All Blacks ready to topple the kings.