23/11/2002. The opportunity presents itself today for Ireland to go into the winter break in rude good health if they can defeat Argentina at Lansdowne Road (4.30pm).
The opportunity presents itself today for Ireland to go into the winter break in rude good health if they can defeat Argentina at Lansdowne Road (4.30pm). And in many ways this game is the most important of the three autumn internationals. Following on from the victory over Australia (we always expected to beat Fiji) this Ireland squad have placed themselves at a level they are very comfortable with and it’s important for them to acquit themselves well this afternoon if they are to remain at that level.
‘Acquit themselves well’, really translates into putting back-to-back victories over top class opposition – because that’s what Argentina are – in order to shelve the idea that all we are capable of is ‘flash in the pan’ wins over the top teams.
It would be important this afternoon that all talk of Lens ’99 is banished from the Irish dressing-room.
This game is not about Lens or Buenos Aires in 2000, it’s all about today, November 23rd, and maybe also RWC 2003.
Going on what we saw at Donnybrook last Wednesday, the task facing the Irish is a really formidable one. Argentina have a settled and experienced squad – they were able to field 13 internationals in Donnybrook – but besides that they have ley players in key positions such as Augustin Pichot, Rolando Martin, and captain Lisandro Arbizu. They love the physical stuff and they love to attack, particularly off broken play and from quick-tap penalties. And they have the players who have the flair and the pace to burn any side.
And Ireland can beat them.
Australian coach Eddie Jones has said that “with him (O’Driscoll) in the side Ireland can do anything.” And of course he’s correct. But now other players are starting to step up to the plate and the result is two-fold. In having to focus on the likes of Shane Horgan, Kevin Maggs and a more daring Ronan O’Gara, the attention slips a little from the number 13. Anything less than 110% focus on the best outside centre in world rugby gives Ireland a further edge.
So today we look forward to more of the same from an Ireland side that has a confident settled look about it. There will be talk of winning not being important. Performance is the thing. Maybe so. But just as it’s hard to break out of a losing run, then it’s equally difficult to give up that winning feeling. Ireland have to turn Lansdowne Road into the type of ground that Thomond Park is and Ravenhill and Donnybrook have become in recent years,
a place where visiting teams, a) don’t like visiting, and b) don’t expect to win.
Ireland. Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll capt, Kevin Maggs, Justin Bishop; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Reggie Corrigan, Shane Byrne, John Hayes; Gary Longwell, Malcolm O’Kelly; Victor Costello, Keith Gleeson, Anthony Foley.
Argentina. Ignacio Corleto (Stade Francais); G Camardon (Roma), J Orengo (Grenoble), L Arbizue (Bordeaux), D Albanese (Leeds); F Contepomi (Bristol), A Pichot (Bristol); M Reggiardo (Castres), M Ledesma (Narbonne), O Hasan (Agen), I Fernandez-Lobbe (Castres), R Alvarez (Perpignan), S Phelan (CASI), G Longo (Narbonne), R Martin (SIC).
Referee – Chris White (Eng).