Waiting game for Kidney
November 18, 2008
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has to wait before deciding his 22. © Getty Images
Ireland forwards Paul O'Connell, Rory Best and Alan Quinlan have been included in an extended squad for their vital clash with Argentina at Croke Park.
Munster second row O'Connell and Ulster hooker Best suffered dead legs in the 22-3 defeat by New Zealand and are battling to prove their fitness for Saturday.
With crucial ranking points on the line against Argentina, head coach Declan Kidney has chosen to delay his team announcement until Thursday morning. Quinlan's citing for stamping against the All Blacks has further complicated matters, although the combative Munster back row still features in the 28. His disciplinary hearing will take place in Dublin tomorrow night.
"Paul and Rory are doing okay as they continue rehab on their dead legs. They took a limited part in training today," said Kidney. "Alan is involved in a disciplinary hearing, so we are just trying to give as much time possible for these matters to be cleared up before we confirm the team.
"All three of them have been named in the squad, and the fact that we decided on 28 members shows how competitive the battle for places is heading into this game. It also allows us to cover several combinations if anybody is ruled out of the game.
"While we would normally name our team today, the circumstances and importance of the game meant we needed to give ourselves that extra couple of days to consider all the options."
The showdown with Argentina has taken on a thrilling new dimension following the publication of the latest world rankings. Ireland must topple the Pumas if they are to retain eighth place in the International Rugby Board standings.
Scotland - expected to dispatch Canada this weekend - are breathing down their necks in ninth, with both teams having one influential match remaining. The rankings determine the seedings for the 2011 World Cup, to be announced on December 1, and Ireland are desperate to avoid the type of group that contributed to their early elimination last autumn. Should they drop to ninth, they will be drawn in a pool featuring two top-tier nations - possibly hosts New Zealand and France or England.
Argentina, who have their own agenda as they seek to hold on to fourth place at the expense of England, have beaten Ireland in their last three meetings. The most significant of these was their 30-15 triumph in Paris last September, a result that concluded Ireland's pitiful World Cup campaign.
"Nobody is doubting the challenge that faces us this Saturday against another team that is above us in the IRB rankings," said Kidney. "The fact that both teams have something to play for in terms of those world rankings gives this game even more of a competitive edge.
"Argentina are a team that work and play extremely hard for each other, so they'll no doubt give their best performance of the autumn against us."
Ireland extended squad for match against Argentina at Croke Park on Saturday November 22:
Forwards: R Best (Ulster), T Buckley (Munster), B Casey (London Irish), T Court (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster), M Horan (Munster), B Jackman (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), A Quinlan (Munster), D Wallace (Munster).
Backs: T Bowe (Ospreys), G Dempsey (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster), S Horgan (Leinster), R Kearney (Leinster), G Murphy (Leicester), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), R O'Gara (Munster), T O'Leary (Munster), E Reddan (Wasps), P Wallace (Ulster).
© PA Sport