Ireland opt for experience for second Test against Argentina
Fergus McFadden the latest to don the Ireland number 13 jersey
Fergus McFadden, who will don the Ireland number 13 jersey against Argentina tomorrow, taking part in the captain’s run at the Estadio Centenario, Tucumán. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland have plumped for a more experienced and proven side for the second Test against Argentina in the Estadio José Fierro in Tucumán tomorrow (kick-off 3.40pm local time, 7.40pm Irish) although Joe Schmidt has been true to his word in giving all 29 squad members game time with the inclusion of three more potential debutants on the bench.
Half a dozen of the Leinster starting line-up which beat Glasgow a fortnight ago, namely Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Eoin Reddan, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock and Jamie Heaslip, as well as Munster loosehead David Kilcoyne are called in.
Nine of this side started for Ireland in Paris, as compared to seven a week ago, and there are 565 caps in the starting XV as opposed to 366 last Saturday.
Furthermore, where all but two of last week’s side hadn’t played in three or four weeks, everybody in this starting XV has played in the last two weeks.
The exceptions are Rob Herring, James Cronin and Noel Reid on the bench, and thus they are in line to make their Test debuts.
Felix Jones and Luke Marshall also make way, with Conor Murray and Jack McGrath dropping to the bench, as Darren Cave moves to inside centre to accommodate McFadden’s selection outside him.
The Pumas have made two changes to their starting line-up, with Antonio Ahualli de Chazal coming in for the injured Benjamín Macome (broken arm) at number eight and the more experienced 28-year-old Oyannax winger cum fullback Lucas González Amorosino replacing Santiago Cordero on the right wing, and Schmidt expects them to “play a lot more”.
The Ireland team appears to be more and more Johnny Sexton-dependant, and having started Ireland’s last eight internationals, there must have been a case for having a look at Ian Madigan at outhalf, given Schmidt’s elbow-room to develop strength in depth there will be more restricted next season.
“Yeah, the temptation was there,” admitted the Ireland coach. “I think one of things about it is Ian (Madigan) has a bit of versatility; therefore if we start him there we wanted to have the opportunity to have him either continue there, not to have to force him to play another position.
“And we wanted to keep the spine of the team pretty strong with the experience we have.
“There was a temptation probably to start Damien Varley, I thought he was the big loser this weekend in so far as selection is concerned because I thought that he was really good coming off the bench.
Real experience“But in order to include everyone he’s missed out to Rob Herring, and we felt that Rory Best through to Paul O’Connell, through Jamie (Heaslip), Eoin Reddan and Jonathan Sexton, and then through Rob Kearney at the back, it just gives us real experience through that spine of the team.”
Given all this, coupled with the lessons from last week, Schmidt and co are entitled to seek an improvement.
Ireland’s win last Saturday was founded on strong set-pieces, and while seeking an improvement in the speed and quality of their ruck ball, O’Connell, the captain, also reasoned:
“We’ve all played in the back-to-back Heineken Cup games. Very often you can have a good day in the lineout in the first game and the other team puts a lot of work into it and it’s a struggle, same with the scrum you can have a good day with the scrum in the first day and the other team rally for the second game.”
The Connacht pair of Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You would appear to have much work to do, although Schmidt wanted to keep the experience of Murray in reserve rather than risk seeing out the game with Marmion and Madigan at halfback.
As with wanting to see Cave at inside centre on this tour, the management have been talking about increasing their depth at tighthead by having a look at Jack McGrath there.
Kilcoyne, who will be making only his second Irish start and first since last summer, will welcome the McGrath experiment. He was sporting a sharp new haircut which he described as “a Conor Murray special. We were advised not to chance the barbers in Chaco. It was supposed to be Zebo but he had a Skype date with Elvira, his girlfriend, and he wasn’t reneging on that, so Murray had to do it.
McFadden cut his teeth at outside centre, although hasn’t played there since the defeat away to Wales in February 2012, and admitted he’ll be looking for a more complete performance this time.
Making more tackles and hitting more rucks are strengths of his game, although McFadden, a Liverpool fan, disagreed with Brian O’Driscoll likening the position to a striker. “I’d say more of a Stevie G than a striker. Brian scored plenty of tries, so maybe that’s what he thought but defensively, it is the most important position on the pitch and I think it’s the link to the outside backs.
“When they’re struggling to get ball and there’s overlaps and space, the 13 is one of those people who is going to get the blame because he’s to get the information into the halfbacks.”
UnfillableHe will not be of a mind to try and emulate O’Driscoll. “You guys know as well as I do no one’s going to fill Brian’s boots, they’re unfillable,” he said, adding: “But one thing Joe does is if someone gets their hands on a jersey and they do a job there, he doesn’t tend to pass it on to someone else. You can get a bit of confidence from that.
“I can just control myself, I’m not too worried about what Brian has done there. He’s done some amazing things, and fair play to him, but the jersey’s going to have to be worn by someone else not and it’s my chance this Saturday.” McFadden hasn’t been in contact with O’Driscoll yet but quipped: “I might text him for the craic; take the mickey out of him.” ARGENTINA: J Tuculet; L González Amorosino, J De la Fuente, G Ascárate, M Montero; N Sánchez, M Landajo (capt); L Noguera Paz, M Cortese, R Herrera, M Carizza, T Lavanini, R Báez, T De la Vega, A Ahualli de Chazal. Replacements: S Iglesias Valdez, B Postiglioni, M Díaz, M Alemanno, J Ortega Desio, T Cubelli, S González Iglesias, M Orlando.