Saturday, November 27, 2010
Ireland vs Argentina - Preview
Dublin's rugby team - Leinster is one of the top two teams in Ireland alongside Munster and is indeed one of the best in Europe. Of the 34 players in Declan Kidney's squad, 13 play for Leinster. The team is strong with Irish test internationals including Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll, and Johnathan Sexton. The team also boasts one Argentine player - secondrower Mariano Galarza and was the home of Pumas captain, Felipe Contepomi, from 2003-2009.
The rivalry is legendary with many great matches having been played between the Irish and Los Pumas. Going back to Rugby World Cup 1999 as a starting point, which is what any fair analysis should do, the record is as follows. Played: 9 matches with 5 wins to Argentina and 4 wins to Ireland. During which Argentina have scored a total of 174 points and Ireland 152. The home team has always been the winner with Ireland winning in 2002, 2004 and 2008 when all matches were played in Dublin. Similarly, Argentina won the three matches in Argentina - winning in 2000 in Buenos Aires and in 2007 in Buenos Aires and Santa Fé. The Rugby World Cup clashes have seen Argentina winning twice - 28-24 in Lens in 1999 and 30-15 in Paris in 2007 and Ireland winning 16-15 in Adelaide in 2003.
Argentina have defeated Ireland three times by scores of 11 or more points with the largest win being 16-0 in 2007 in Buenos Aires. Ireland's largest win was in 2008 at Croke Park as Ireland scored the games only try on fulltime to Tommy Bowe to win 17-3. The other two matches in Ireland saw Ireland win by scores of 16-9 in 2002 and 21-19 in 2004. The victory in 2004 was the result of a drop goal by Ronan O'Gara on fulltime in a game in which Ireland failed to score a try. In short, results suggest that since Rugby World Cup 1999 there has been little between the two sides.
Ireland enter this match coming off a heavy 38-18 loss to New Zealand at home last week. Despite losing by 20 points, Ireland were in no way dominated or even outplayed. To the contrary, Ireland played very well with the difference being that the All Blacks were able to capitalize on their chances. The previous week, Ireland hosted Samoa and defeated the Pacific Islanders 20-10 in a match that Ireland expected to win by a margin twice as big or more. Before defeating Samoa, an understrength South Africa secured a 23-21 victory over Ireland in a match in which they controlled after taking a 23-9 lead in the 65th minute. However, Australia were the first team to play at Aviva Stadium this month and the Wallabies defended well and scored two tries to nil to win 22-15. Ireland have thus lost two and won one test so far this month.
In comparison, Argentina have played against Italy and France both in away fixtures and were successful in Verona vs the Italians but were defeated 15-9 in a tryless match in Montpellier vs the French. Argentina, did play an aggressive final 20 odd minutes vs France and were the superior side. Argentina were also able to control the tempo of the match throughout as the backrow was successful in slowing down play which all but prevented France from unleashing its backline. Italy also failed to score a try against Argentina. The referee did award a penalty try but the defensive line is yet to be breached. Therefore, despite some comentators suggesting otherwise, there is therefore little reason ton suggest that Ireland are likely to win by a big score. There is also little historical evidence to suggest this.
The old and the new in Geordan Murphy vs Martín Rodriguez Gurruchaga will be a true test for both players with the Argentine increasingly looking like being Argentina´s next best thing. Murphy will need to work well will Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe to shut down the young Puma. Ireland´s star winger will be in an interesting tussle himself as Tommy Bowe vs Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino will take place for the first time ever. Bowe is a big match player with a huge reputation whilst Amorisino is newer to the international game but just as deadly in attack. Their contest will be highly important. Ireland will need their Captain fantastic to play well as Brian O´Driscoll vs Gonzalo Tiesi looms one which Ireland should have in the bag but Tiesi had a strong match vs France. Leinster´s new and old in Johnny Sexton vs Felipe Contepomi will be the key ballt of the back however. Both are worldclass but Contepomi continues to be the superior player. While at Leinster, the Argentine captain kept Sexton on the bench.
Mick O´Driscoll vs Patricio Albacete will be very important with the the Irish player facing a huge challenge against the best secondrower in European club rugby. The Irishman will need to be on his game or else his side may suffer in the set pieces and at rucks. Frontrow vs Frontrow will as always have alot to do with how the game unfolds. Ireland have made an interesting selection in Healy - Cronin - Buckley to take on Roncero - Ledesma - Scelzo. The Pumas should have a clear edge. However, the most important matchup will see two of the worlds leading 8´s go head-to-head in Jamie Heaslip vs Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. Both are key players in their team and are able to lift the players around them when they play well.
Ireland played very well vs New Zealand and Argentina played well towards the end of the match vs France. Ireland, as always, have a superb backline but look vulnerable in the forwards. Argentina were able to control the speed of the game by slowing thw ball down at rucks when the French were in possession and were also able to speed it up when Los Pumas had the ball, especially in the last 25 minutes. Conditions should benefit the visitors as it will be a cold Dublin afternoon which will not favor running rugby so much. The forecast is for a mixture of cloud and sun with showers possible. Argentina´s superiority in the forwards is enough to tip Argentina to make history in claiming its first win in Dublin. But it will be very close. Argentina to win by 3 points.
15 Geordan Murphy (Leicester, England)
14 Tommy Bowe (Ospreys, Wales)
13 Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain)
12 Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster)
11 Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
10 Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
9 Peter Stringer (Munster)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
7 David Wallace (Munster)
6 Stephen Ferris (Ulster)
5 Mick O´Driscoll (Munster)
4 Donncha O´Callaghan (Munster)
3 Tony Buckley (Munster)
2 Sean Cronin (Connacht)
1 Cian Healy (Leinster)
Reserves: D Varley (Munster), T Court (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), K Earls (Munster).
15 Martín Rodriguez Gurruchaga (Stade Francais, France)
14 Horacio Agulla (Leicester Tigers, England)
13 Gonzalo Tiesi (Stade Francais, France)
12 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)
11 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino (Leicester Tigers, England)
10 Felipe Contepomi (Toulon, France - captain)
9 Nicolas Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
7 Julio Farías Cabello (Tucuman)
6 Genaro Fessia (Córdoba)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
4 Mariano Galarza (Leinster, Ireland)
3 Martín Scelzo (Clermont, France)
2 Mario Ledesma (Clermont, France)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Français, France)
Reserves: 16 Agustin Creevy (Clermont, France), 17 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester, England), 18 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France), 19 Santiago Guzman (Tucuman), 20 Alvaro Galindo (Racing Metro, France), 21 Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish, England), 22 Lucas Borges (Albi, France)