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Marmion: Physical Pumas Test Was Ideal Preparation

Marmion: Physical Pumas Test Was Ideal Preparation

Connacht scrum half Kieran Marmion pressed his claims to start against New Zealand with an energetic performance and his fourth Test try in Saturday’s 28-17 GUINNESS Series defeat of Argentina.

After Luke McGrath and John Cooney were selected for the Rugby Weekend victory over Italy In Chicago, Kieran Marmion was given the nod to make his sixth start for Ireland, slotting in alongside Jonathan Sexton at half-back against the Pumas.

The 26-year-old anticipated a tough battle with Argentina, in stark contrast to the previous week’s comfortable Stateside win, and he was pleased that they were able to keep up their winning form by shrugging off Mario Ledesma’s men in the second half.

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“I think them coming over, we knew they are a quality side. They were physical, they had a lot of good individuals in there. I think in the first half we probably let them into the game a bit too much,” admitted Marmion. “Turnovers and penalties. Then I think going into the second half, we probably grew into the game a bit more and started to turn that.”

In relation to his eighth minute try, which came in response to Nicolas Sanchez’s opening penalty for Argentina, Marmion reserved special praise for Ireland’s pack in helping to make the score possible as he sniped over during an advantage for a scrum penalty.

“Didn’t have to do too much. I think the scrum was a big weapon for us tonight. I think that did most of the job and I just managed to get over the line there, which is always good to get,” he said of his fourth international try, with his haul also including touchdowns against Canada, the USA and Japan.

Like the desperately unfortunate Sean O’Brien, Marmion’s day was cut short by an ankle injury nearing the hour mark. He is hopeful that he will be fully fit for next Saturday’s showdown with New Zealand, however, and also expressed his disappointment for the returning O’Brien.

“I just twisted the ankle again. I’m feeling alright now, so hopefully I’ll get back to the hotel, get some ice on it and hopefully it’ll be alright next week. He (O’Brien) trained well all week. He was going well. Hasn’t had too much luck recently. It’s a big blow for him. I felt pretty sorry for him, but I’m sure he’ll come back again and go again.”

A week before welcoming the world champions back to Dublin, Ireland were facing an Argentinian outfit that were battle hardened from their recent Rugby Championship campaign. The Pumas are only in the first few months of Ledesma’s coaching reign but showed their quality with wins over South Africa and Australia.

Marmion believes the hard-fought GUINNESS Series Opener served as ideal preparation for the visit of the All Blacks, who claimed the Rugby Championship title for the third year in a row, finishing 10 points clear of the second-placed Springboks.

“Argentina are a good side. There’s definitely a lot of improvement from our performance there today to go into next week. I think we can just look back at that, look at the areas that we need to fix and get ready for a bigger challenge next weekend.”

Inevitably, given it is a clash between the world’s top two ranked teams, there were suggestions that Ireland may have had one eye on their meeting with New Zealand. However, as Marmion readily acknowledges, Joe Schmidt ensures the focus rarely stretches beyond the next game in an international cycle.

“I think Joe drives it into us that you have to perform this weekend. I think everyone in the squad was fully focused on this game. We all know that if we don’t perform in this game that we won’t be involved next weekend. I think the whole squad, as a collective, was fully focused and raring to go in this one.

“It’s one game at a time, so whenever we’re training, we’re just getting ready for whoever we’re up against this weekend. The individuals we’re up against. As a squad, that’s driven amongst the players and Joe and the other coaches as well.”

With Conor Murray to sit out the entire GUINNESS Series, Marmion is in the running to start against New Zealand at Test level for the first time. The 2016 GUINNESS PRO12 winner enjoyed a brief cameo when Steve Hansen’s charges last visited Dublin two year ago, having watched on as an unused replacement for the historic success in Chicago two weeks earlier.

Facing New Zealand as a starting number 9 would undoubtedly be the highlight of Marmion’s international career so far, especially with the highly-regarded Aaron Smith, who has 81 caps to his name, in the scrum half role for the opposition.

“Absolutely. That’s what I want to do. After tonight hopefully I’ve put my hand up. That’s up for Joe and the coaches to decide. All I can do is get ready for that game and if I’m starting great, but I’ll just train as hard as I can,” Marmion said about his selection prospects.