Ireland and Argentina set for pivotal duel
November 23, 2012
Reports suggest Ireland coach Declan Kidney's long term future rides on the result of this game © Getty Images
Ireland and Argentina will go head-to-head in Dublin on Saturday in a clash that is set to serve as a shoot out for a favourable world ranking and a preferable pool draw at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
A loss for Ireland, in tandem with other results, could see them plummet to 10th position and leave Declan Kidney's men facing a pool with two sides ranked higher than them at the sport's next showpiece event. On the flip side, a loss for the Pumas and they could be the ones slipping out of the top eight.
The hosts enter the clash following a narrow defeat to South Africa with an experimental Ireland XV over-powering Fiji last weekend. That eight-try rout of the Fijians restored some much-needed confidence but did not cause a tremor to rival Argentina's upset of Wales earlier this month. The Pumas were brought back down to earth by France last time out but have shown in the last few weeks that they fear no one and back themselves against allcomers.
Ireland - Player to Watch: Winger Craig Gilroy's hat-trick against Fiji last weekend has earned him a promotion to the Test side - can he maintain his rich vein of form?
Ireland - Team News: The Ireland starting line-up shows just one change from the defeat to South Africa with Gilroy taking his place on the wing at the expense of Andrew Trimble. Coach Declan Kidney has also kept the faith with the same selection of replacements with Iain Henderson, Michael Bent and David Kilcoyne all looking to get some game time.
Argentina - Player to Watch: Big games call for big performances from big players and they don't come much bigger than Pumas playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez. Back in the line-up after injury ruled him out of the France game, Ireland will be hoping he is not too fresh.
Argentina - Team News: Argentina have made four changes to the side beaten by France last time out. Hernandez returns at fullback in the place of Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino and is joined in the backs by Exeter's Gonzalo Camacho and Santiago Fernandez. Camacho replaces the injured Horacio Agulla while Fernandez steps in for Gonzalo Tiesi with Marcelo Bosch shifting to outside centre. And in the pack, Maximiliano Bustos is set to make his debut at tight-head and replaces Juan Figallo.
Key Battle: With so much at stake a tense contest awaits so every kick will count. The pressure on Ireland's Jonathan Sexton and Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez - and perhaps team-mate Hernandez will be immense. Whoever deals with the pressure to perform the best will likely steer their side to victory.
Trivia: Ireland have recorded a win ratio of just 42% since returning to the rebuilt Lansdowne Road in 2010. They have lost seven of the 12 test matches played at the venue
Stats: Tommy Bowe needs one more try to reach 25 tries scored for Ireland. Bowe is already Ireland's third highest try scorer of all time behind second placed Denis Hickie (29 tries) and Ireland's highest try scorer Brian O'Driscoll, with 45 tries.
"In the greater scheme of things it's an important game, but for us it's like any other match"
"As soon as we were involved in the Rugby Championship, the coaches knew an evolution had to happen, with a lot of technical work, especially with Graham Henry who helped us a lot to."
Prediction: Ireland to dig deep and notch a narrow win that gives them a timely boost ahead of the World Cup pool draw and coach Declan Kidney some breathing room.
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