Ireland welcome Argentina with spring in step
Having tapped into the Ulster zeitgeist in Saturday’s 53-0 romp against Fiji, Ireland move on to an altogether sterner and more relevant test against their old foes from Argentina with a welcome spring in their step. Come Ireland’s final day of reckoning in this November window next Saturday, that top eight ranking and second tier seeding for the World Cup draw in a fortnight’s time could yet be on the line again.
Confirmation of the IRB’s latest updated rankings await today, but over the weekend Ireland have actually climbed a place to seventh above Wales, courtesy of Samoa’s win at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night, which pushed them above Scotland, who lost to South Africa on Saturday.
Argentina, meanwhile, remain above Ireland in sixth despite their 39-22 defeat in Lille on Saturday night, a result which hardened France’s top four seeding above the 2015 hosts England after their loss to Australia.
As Wales host top-ranked New Zealand next week (and also have Australia in Cardiff a week afterwards) and Samoa travel to Paris, they each have opportunities to significantly boost their ranking. Failing that, defeats won’t hurt them as much as it would Ireland, were they to lose at home to Argentina.
“My understanding is we just have to win next week,” said Kidney. “We need to beat Argentina to avoid falling below the two of them (Wales and Samoa).
In other words, if Ireland didn’t beat Argentina, the top eight ranking could be in jeopardy. “Yes, that’s my guess,” re-iterated Kidney, who generally has his homework done on these things. At least Ireland has their fate in their own hands.
The sense of déjà vu is palpable, for it was on the comparative day four years ago that Ireland and Argentina effectively met in a play-off for eighth place prior to the 2011 World Cup draw. It was also the first tranche of matches under this coaching ticket, although coming after a 22-3 defeat to the All Blacks, pretty much all else has changed though, changed utterly.
More strings to bow
“Same situation, just a completely different age profile of a squad,” Kidney noted on Saturday evening. And as their win in Wales a week ago also highlighted after their ultra-competitive debut campaign in the Rugby Championship, these Argentinians are both way more hardened and have infinitely more strings to their bow.
“When we played them four years ago you’d catch them because they’d probably get three weeks together in a whole season,” said Kidney. “Now they’re at the end of maybe 10/11 weeks, and depending on what happens in France tonight they could be going for top four themselves.
“They’re a seriously impressive side now. You saw the Italians improve as a result of being in the Rabo; Argentina are going to do nothing but improve by part of the Rugby Championship. That’s why I say the more often we play those sides the better.”
Beyond the boost in confidence and some beneficial game time for the 15 or so who will be involved one way or the other next week, notably Mike Ross, admitted the coach, it’s hard to see much relevance to the latest rendezvous with Los Pumas in last Saturday’s affair.