Argentina without Europe-based stars for Ireland Tests
But Toulon’s Lobbe warns young squad will be fired up for meetings with Six Nations champions
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe: “It’s going to be a great, great Test for all the guys that are going to be there and maybe be doing their first steps (in Test rugby). What better way to maybe get a bigger base for the World Cup?” Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho
It is perhaps with some relief that Ireland will encounter an Argentine team without their leading, European-based lights, amongst them Juan Fernandez Lobbe. The man who has led Los Pumas in what has been a difficult transitional era for their national team admits a young Argentina squad could hardly be facing a more difficult challenge than two Tests against Joe Schmidt’s strongly assembled crew. New coach As was the case last season when hosting England for two Tests in the June window, Argentina will be without their leading European-based professionals, instead keeping them back for the Rugby Championship, and will also be under a new coach, Daniel Hourcade.
He took over the role following the shock resignation of Santiago Phelan before the November Tests, having previously worked with the Jaguars, Argentina’s B team, having risen through the ranks.
Los Pumas ended the year on a high with victory over Italy, but that was their only win in 2013, having lost those aforementioned Tests against England by 32-3 and 51-26.
“It’s a young team with a new coach and we couldn’t get a bigger challenge, maybe, than the Six Nations champions,” said Fernandez Lobbe.
“We saw the squad. They’re going with all their guns firing, so it’s going to be a great, great Test for all the guys that are going to be there and maybe be doing their first steps (in Test rugby). What better way to maybe get a bigger base for the World Cup? That is the bigger objective.
“It will be a younger team, I would say. There will be a few guys with experience but it will definitely be a younger team. They will definitely, definitely be good players. We need to trust those young players, and they are going to give everything.
“You know the pride we have for our jersey, so it’s going to be a nice game. It’s going to be tough, especially for us, because the Six Nations champions are coming but if we give everything and try to play our game, hopefully we get a good result.”
Ireland will face Argentina in the first of two Tests at the Estadio Centenario, Resistencia, Chaco, near the Paraguayan border on Saturday week (kick-off 7.40pm Irish time) on June 7th, and a week later in the Estadio José Fierro, Tucumán (kick-off 7.40pm, again Irish time).
“They (the Argentine Federation) are trying a little bit to change the venues to make it a little bit more open to everyone, and the first Test is up in the north, but you will get the same passion you always get when playing in Argentina. Maybe less than in Buenos Aires, but always the same passion.” Instrumental Fernandez Lobbe was a hugely instrumental figure in Toulon retaining their Heineken Cup crown in last Saturday’s win over Saracens in Cardiff when on a mission to atone for his first-half yellow card, and understandably basked in the glow in that triumph.
“It’s a great memory, and no-one will take that memory away from us,” said Fernandez Lobbe.
“Not just doing a double, but coming into a final and being able to win it, it’s a great souvenir.”