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First Test Preview: Argentina v Ireland

First Test Preview: Argentina v Ireland

Ireland renew rivalries with Argentina, their 2007 World Cup Pool D opponents, in Santa Fe on Saturday, with both sides including some unfamiliar faces in their starting line-ups.


ARGENTINA v IRELAND, Estadio Brigadier Estanislao Lopez, Santa Fe, 4.10pm (8.10pm Irish time) (live RTE Two)

Saturday’s clash sees the fourth-ranked Irish takes on hosts Argentina, the sixth-ranked team in the world, but with a number of front-liners missing, those ranking positions will count for little.

Coaches Eddie O’Sullivan and Marcelo Loffreda are pitting some of their fringe players against each other for this encounter – the sides’ fifth meeting since that infamous night in Lens in 1999.

Since Ireland’s World Cup exit at the hands of the Pumas in ’99, the men in green have lost one but won three of their four subsequent fixtures with the powerful South Americans.

Ireland’s last visit to Argentina, back in 2000, saw them lose 34-23 at Buenos Aires’ Ferro Carril Oeste ground. But Ireland took the honours in autumn Tests in Dublin in 2002 (16-7) and 2004 (21-19) and O’Sullivan’s charges also edged a titantic battle at the 2003 World Cup when an Alan Quinlan try helped them to a 16-15 victory in Adelaide.

Seeking clues as to the make-up of his squad for this year’s World Cup, O’Sullivan has handed rugby league convert Brian Carney his debut for this weekend.

Centre Kieran Lewis and lock Trevor Hogan will both be making their first starts for Ireland on Saturday, there are second starts for out-half Paddy Wallace and number 8 Jamie Heaslip, while Ulster pair Isaac Boss and Bryan Young will be making their third starts.

In the Irish second row, Leinster’s Malcolm O’Kelly is set to take his Ireland caps record tally to 84 as he returns to the side for the first time since November.

There are also three potential debutants on the Irish bench – Munster’s Tony Buckley, Tomas O’Leary and Barry Murphy could all make their bows at the 28,000-capacity home of the Colon soccer club.

In the absence of Brian O’Driscoll and numerous other Triple Crown winners, Ireland will be led by Ulster prop Simon Best.

The Argentinian fifteen includes two uncapped players – winger Tomas de Vedia of Saracens and CASI lock James Stuart.

Glasgow Warriors winger Francisco Leonelli and veteran lock Pablo Bouza of Leeds are back for Argentina after a long absence. The pair helped a similarly depleted Pumas side hold the British and Irish Lions to a draw in Cardiff two years ago.

Leinster out-half Felipe Contepomi captains his country in the absence of Agustin Pichot, Contepomi’s regular half-back partner.

Like many of the Pumas’ top stars, club commitments in France has kept Pichot out of Loffreda’s plans for this two-Test series.

ARGENTINA: Bernardo Stortoni; Tomas de Vedia, Miguel Avramovic, Hernan Senillosa, Francisco Leonelli; Felipe Contepomi (capt), Nicolas Vergallo; Marcos Ayerza, Alberto Vernet Basualdo, Santiago Gonzalez Bonorino, Pablo Bouza, Esteban Lozada, Martin Durand, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon.

Replacements: Matias Cortese, Pablo Cardinali, James Stuart, Genaro Fessia, Lucio Lopez Fleming, Juan Fernandez Miranda, Horacio Agulla.

IRELAND: Gavin Duffy; Brian Carney, Andrew Trimble, Kieran Lewis, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Wallace, Isaac Boss; Bryan Young, Jerry Flannery, Simon Best (capt), Trevor Hogan, Malcolm O’Kelly, Neil Best, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Stephen Ferris, Tomas O’Leary, Geordan Murphy, Barry Murphy.

Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)
Touch Judges: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand), Phillip Bosch (South Africa)
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)