PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy is back with his third & final 2018 Autumn Rugby Series preview. After the mixed bag that was Fiji, can Ireland show their claws by dispatching the Pumas?
We’re back for the end of the Autumn trilogy and let’s hope the actors don’t fluff their lines this time. Last Saturday, things were panning out exactly as expected in the first half. Joe Schmidt’s gameplan was being executed by a largely experimental side, with strong set piece and good structured attack play, led by the excellent Joey Carberry, delivering a few strong tries. But the game came unstuck and while there is differing opinions on what that meant for the future of Irish rugby, the reality is that a second string team unused to playing together just lost it’s shape and accuracy. The big plus to be taken from the situation was the fact that we still won the game, which was critical to these players escaping with their reputation bruised but still intact.
For this Saturday and the visit of a well worn Argentina, Joe has gone back to largely the side that dispatched South Africa two weeks ago. The enforced absence of Robbie Henshaw and the resting of Andrew Conway (a big surprise as for me he has been the man of the Autumn Series) has seen the full debut come for fellow Naas RFC man Adam Byrne and I’m delighted for him. It is a massive opportunity for a fine prospect and hopefully he can make his mark in attack and put down a big marker in D.
In the centres, Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell are a new combination and offer some serious go forward options. It would seem to indicate that Joe favours the Munster man over Stuart McCloskey but it wouldn’t be the first time that we second guessed the our coach incorrectly! For sure it would seem to seal the fate of Aki as a 12, leaving a compelling face off between Ringrose and Henshaw for the starting 13 shirt for the 6 Nations.
Up front, James Ryan finally gets his first start in green, hopefully the first of many. He’ll really benefit from packing down behind an inform Irish front row and beside the dynamic Iain Henderson. That pairing has the potential to rival the very best around for footballing skills and mobility but Joe will be watching for the bread and butter work too.
For Argentina, who have never won in Dublin, they make three changes from the side that won 15-31 away to Italy last weekend. Gone is veteran outhalf Juan Martin Hernandez and in is ex-Toulon 10 Nicolas Sanchez, who kicked nine out of 10 during THAT 2015 World Cup quarter-final. Coach Daniel Hourcade has a limited hand to play this late in the season and has gone with the strongest, freshest line up he could muster.
In terms of the likely game pattern, with Argentina, like the French, you have to get on top up front in order to subdue their potential danger behind. So expect Ireland to really compete hard in the contact area, looking to control the game tightly from half back, testing the Argies in the air and moving their fatigued pack around the park. Territory and good accuracy from the lineout is key, avoiding draining scrums that are the lifeblood of the Argentina pack culture. Expect Ireland to look to wear Argentina down by building a lead over 60 mins, before the impact subs are dispatched to try to deliver the late hammer blow that saw the Springboks beaten by a record score. Ireland can and should win this, with the prediction being a 13 points victory.
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