Friday, November 23, 2012

Ireland v Argentina, Preview

Photo: UAR Credit Martín Seras Lima
Manuel Carizza to be the go to man in the lineout
The final November test match for Ireland and Argentina is also the most vital. With the draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 to take place in December the final ranking´s of both nations will be determined in Dublin this Saturday. Currently both are ranked in Band 2 together with England and Wales but a lot could change and neither can afford a heavy loss whatsoever. A heavy loss for either side could very well see the team drop to Band 3 and therefore receive a significantly tougher draw for Rugby World Cup 2015. Argentina is currently ranked 6th in the world on 79,89 points while Ireland is 7th on 79,04 points. Below them lie Wales on 78,95 in 8th, Samoa on 78,79 in 9th and Scotland on 77,42 in 10th. Scotland is to host Tonga which is ranked 12th and a win will improve Scotland´s ranking. Wales are likely to lose against New Zealand and Samoa against France. But losses in these matches are not as important due to the rankings of their opponents. New Zealand and France are simply ranked so much higher than Wales and Samoa that the implications are barely as severe for the lower ranked sides. It makes the match at the Aviva Stadium all the more important. Ireland has to win as does Argentina.

Current IRB World Rankings

  1 New Zealand 92,91
2 South Africa 86,05
3 Australia 85,94
4 France 84,99
5 England 81,96
6 Argentina 79,89
7 Ireland 79,04
8 Wales 78,95
9 Samoa 78,79
10 Scotland 77,42
11 Italy 76,61
12 Tonga 74,51

*Band 1
*Band 2
*Band 3

The rivalry between Ireland and Argentina is legendary. It has very much come to be a grudge match with the teams having eliminated one another from World Cup´s and having had previous June and November internationals decided by dropgoals. In 2004 Ronan O´Gara landed a last gasp dropgoal to win the match for Ireland in Dublin while Felipe Contepomi did the same thing for Argentina in Santa Fé in 2007. Neither player will be starting in the 2012 match with O´Gara having lost his starting place to Johnny Sexton and Contepomi being injured. Contepomi had started against Wales but was forced from the field early on with a serious knee injury. It added to the Pumas injury list which includes Patricio Albacete, Rafael Carballo, Mariano Galarza and Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga. Argentina is also without the banned Juan Figallo and Lucas González Amorosino who was released from the squad to return to Montpellier. Ireland has a similar number of players missing with Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, John Muldoon, Brian O´Driscoll and Paul O´Connell missing. 

Such is the nature of the professional game that neither side can blame missing players for this match. Indeed, both have plenty of ready players to fill their boots and there is more depth to call upon than previously. Ireland´s provinces of Leinster, Munster and Ulster have been amongst the best Heineken Cup sides since Rugby World Cup 2011 and all offer alternatives to the regular starters. The strenght of depth in Irish rugby was clear last Saturday as Ireland ran rampant against Fiji. It was predominantly an Irish team made up of fringe players, as was Fiji. Argentina also has more depth at its disposal now due to the development of players through the PladAR system. In general there are more players of note across positions than was te case when the teams met in 2008 and 2010. The time together that the squad enjoyed during The Rugby Championship has also enabled Argentina to reach a level that it failed to during the first four years of Santiago Phelan´s coaching regime. 

The 2008 match saw Phelan throw together a backline after Contepomi, Hernández and Gonzalo Tiesi were all ruled out due to injury. It saw a first test start for Santiago Fernández at flyhalf and for Horacio Agulla at fullback. Lesser known players including Miguel Avramovic and Federico Martín Aramburu were the starting centres. Fernández is to be the only back from the 2008 match to again be starting in 2012. He replaces Tiesi who will be on the bench with Bosch moving to outside centre and Fernández starting at inside centre. Other changes see Gonzalo Camacho return on the right wing, Juan Martín Fernández at fullback and the long awaited debut of 130KG Montpellier tighthead prop Maximilano Bustos. Ireland also have a debutant with Craig Gilroy set to face Camacho. The remaining fourteen players are the same that started for Ireland against South Africa in its other test match this month. Phelan has made the interesting decision of not including Tomás Cubelli or Joaquín Tuculet on the bench. Instead Nicolás Vergallo and Manuel Montero will have opportunities. 

Overall Ireland has a superior win-loss record but it all comes down to where the matches have been played. Argentina has never won in Ireland just like Ireland has never won in Argentina. Of the twelve official test matches between the nations Ireland has won seven and Argentina five. There were non-internationals between the nations going back as far as 1952 but the first official test match was not played until 1990. Such has been the dramatic transformation or rugby as a global sport following the establishment of the Rugby World Cup. The teams have faced off in three Rugby World Cup tournaments, all in the professional era. Argentina famously defeated Ireland 28-24 to advance to the Quarter Final in 1999 but Ireland got revenge four years latter with a 16-15 victory in Adelaide. In 2007 Argentina played its best ever match against Ireland and again eliminated the Irish from the World Cup. On the two occassions that Ireland has not reached the World Cup Quarter Finals it has been because of Argentina. The performances at World Cup´s have seen the rivalry between the nations grow and consequently the teams are not so friendly with one another on the pitch. Since Rugby World Cup 2007 there have been two matches, both in Dublin and both seeing Ireland win comfortably.                                                                                            

Complete History 
October 27 1990 Ireland 20-18 Argentina, Dublin
August 28 1999 Ireland 32-24 Argentina, Dublin
October 20 1999 Argentina 28-24 Ireland, Lens (Rugby World Cup)
 June 03 2000 Argentina 34-23 Ireland, Buenos Aires
November 23 2002 Ireland 16-7 Argentina, Dublin
October 26 2003 Ireland 16-15 Argentina, Adelaide (Rugby World Cup)
November 27 2004 Ireland 21-19 Argentina, Dublin
May 26 2007 Argentina 22-20 Ireland, Santa Fé
June 2 2007 Argentina 16-0 Ireland, Buenos Aires
September 30 2007 Argentina 30-15 Ireland, Paris (Rugby World Cup)
November 22 2008 Ireland 17-3 Argentina, Dublin
November 28 2010 Ireland 29-9 Argentina, Dublin

Key Match-up
A fascinating match-up will take place in midfield with Keith Earls going up against Marcelo Bosch. Both players offer a lot in attack with Earls possibly being the superior. But in defense Bosch is clearly the better player. They will both have great wingers outside them and should certainly be key to creating tries. The growing star that is Nicolás Sánchez will have opportunity of facing one of the best in Europe, Johnny Sexton. The Irish international is likely to be the Lions starting flyhalf against Autralia next June while Sánchez has already been establishing himself as the man to direct traffic for the Puams backline come Rugby World Cup 2015. Cian Healy v Maximilano Bustos sees an interesting matchup on one side of the scrum. The Irish frontrower has been enhancing his reputation significantly in recent seasons while Bustos debuts as a man seen as possibly adding to the legacy left behind by the likes of Omar Hasan and Martín Scelzo. Donnacha Ryan v Manuel Carizza will be a great match up in the secondrow but Chris Henry v Juan Manuel Leguizamón could well be the one to really make a difference. Henry has been a top performer for Ulster in recent times and was a strong performer against South Africa two weeks ago. Leguizamón was strong against Wales and had a mixed performance against France. Both are great ball carriers and tacklers. Whoever can put in the most tackles will likely give his team quite an advantage

Ireland has not had a lot of rugby. Instead of organizing a tradition three test home series for November the IRFU organized just two. The match against Fiji was a non-international with IRB World Ranking´s not coming into consideration. Ireland could have instead played Fiji in a test or faced a different opponent. Argentina, has conversely been together since July playing six matches against SANZAR opposition and then Wales and France this month. Argentina´s performance against Wales was talked about as evidence of the teams improvement due to The Rugby Championship. The tournament has helped Argentina significantly. Argentina, though, is coming off a big loss against France. Argentina had been in control, leading by ten points but France came back well to take over. Ireland had a good first half against South Africa but fell apart in the second against what was not an impressive Springboks outfit. Form would suggest that this will be a first ever Argentine victory in IrelandArgentina to win by 8 points.  

Cian Healy, 2 Richardt Strauss, 3 Mike Ross
(Leinster, IRL), (Leinster, IRL) (Leinster, IRL)
Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mike McCarthy
(Munster, IRL), (Connacht, IRL)
Peter O´Mahony, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry
(Munster, IRL), (Leinster, IRL), (Ulster, IRL)

Conor Murray, 10 Johnny Sexton
(Munster, IRL), (Leinster, IRL)
12 Gordon D´Arcy, 13 Keith Earls
(Leinster, IRL), (Munster, IRL)
11 Craig Gilroy, 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe 
(Ulster, IRL), (Munster, IRL), (Ulster, IRL)

16 Sean Cronin (Leinster, IRL)
17 David Kilcoyne (Munster, IRL)
18 Michael Bent (Leinster, IRL)
19 Donnacha O´Callaghan (Munster, IRL)
20 Iain Henderson (Ulster, IRL)
21 Eoin Reddan (Leinster, IRL)
22 Ronan O´Gara (Munster, IRL)
23 Fergus McFadden (Leinster, IRL)

Marcos Ayerza, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 3 Maximilano Bustos
(Leicester Tigers, ENG), (Southern Kings, RSA) (Montpellier, FRA)
Manuel Carizza, 5 Julio Farías Cabello
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
Juan M F Lobbe, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan M Leguizamón
(Toulon, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Lyon OU, FRA)

Martín Landajo, 10 Nicolás Sánchez
(Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Bordeaux-Begles, FRA)
12 Santiago Fernández, 13 Marcelo Bosch
(Montpellier, FRA), (Biarritz, FRA)
11 Juan Imhoff, 15 Juan M Hernández, 14 Gonzalo Camacho
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Racing Métro, FRA), (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)

16 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, FRA)
17 Nahuel Lobo (Montpellier, FRA)
18 Francisco Gómez Kodela (Biarritz, FRA)
19 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Scarlets, WAL)
20 Tomás Leonardí (Southern Kings, RSA)
21 Nicolás Vergallo (Southern Kings, RSA)
22 Gonzalo Tiesi (San Isidro, ARG)
23 Manuel Montero (Los Pampas XV, ARG)

Argentina v Ireland 2007

Ireland v Argentina 2007

Ireland v Argentina 2008

Ireland v Argentina 2010

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