Settling scores no longer on the agenda but World Cup seedings the issue in a high-stakes encounter
The stupid thing about it was that they obviously had great players and if they had concentrated on playing rugby and leaving the dirty stuff to one side, they could have improved a lot quicker. Everybody could see they were a coming team with a couple of world-class players and they played some great stuff against other countries. But just when it came to us, it seemed like they felt they were more interested in settling scores.
I think the worst of it was the 2004 game in Lansdowne Road. Argentina came to Dublin clearly annoyed at what they felt was whining from the Ireland team the previous year. They were out for revenge and it felt as if the result of the game wasn’t as important to them as leaving a mark on as many of the Ireland players as they could. They were gouging and stamping all over the place and it got fairly dangerous at times. As well as that, they never shut up and were full of verbals from start to finish.
We won it with a last-minute drop goal from Ronan O’Gara, who proceeded to rub it in by jumping in the air and clicking his heels beside Mario Ledesma. Rog had taken dog’s abuse all the way through the game – both verbally and physically – and he knew well what he was doing and who he was doing it to. It was like a red rag to a bull for them.
Even so, I was still a bit surprised at how cold and distant they were at the function that night. It’s one of the things I really love about rugby – you can hammer the shite out of each other on the pitch but still buy each other a beer afterwards. But they just didn’t want anything to do with us that night. There was a lot of tension in the room. They sat by themselves over in one corner and left us to sit in ours.
There was nearly a coming together as the night wore on though. I was sitting having a drink with Paul O’Connell when word came down that a few of them were giving Rog a hard time up at the bar. It was Ledesma leading the charge and I’ve no doubt Rog was probably giving it back. One way or another, we were on our feet and nearly had the jackets off us ready to go and get involved. It all calmed down pretty quickly in the end but for a minute it looked like things could have got out of hand.
The bitterness between the two sides got stoked up with the provinces as well over the years. There was always that bit of chippiness between Felipe Contepomi and the Munster players – mostly Rog and Denis Leamy it has to be said. Again, plenty of people assumed I was in the middle of it but it’s not true. Felipe and I actually got on pretty well together, maybe because we were both players that the supporters of the other team didn’t like.