Settling scores no longer on the agenda but World Cup seedings the issue in a high-stakes encounter
FROM THE BLINDSIDE: Hopefully the acrimonious history between the teams can be forgotten and we can turn a new page, writes ALAN QUINLAN
Like everything else with Ireland and Argentina, the bad blood started in Lens in 1999. I don’t mean that there was anything niggly or dirty about that night – Ireland were beaten fair and square and Argentina totally deserved their win – but everything that happened in the years that followed came about because of it. I’ve never been in a dressingroom where there was such shock and grief as on that night and I know every Ireland player who was there kept it with them for years afterwards. We had to get revenge the next time we met them. And it just escalated from there.
I always felt as well that for Argentina, that win against us in 1999 opened the door for them. Being able to beat a Northern Hemisphere side in the World Cup meant they were now a serious force. It didn’t matter to them that our preparation for the game wasn’t up to scratch (the food in our hotel was so bad even the team doctor was encouraging us to go next door to McDonald’s just to get some decent nutrition), what mattered was that now they had a target among the main rugby-playing countries that they could aim at. They felt they could beat us and so when we met again in the 2003 tournament, they didn’t take kindly to being on the wrong end of the result.
I played against them three times down the years and I would have been involved in squads against them on a few other occasions as well. And the thing is, I always got on well with them. People would have been looking in from the outside and hearing there was some bad blood between the two countries and they were probably assuming that I was at the heart of it. But actually, any bits of verbals that ever went on took place without me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have got involved if I’d been there but the truth is I never had the chance.
In that 2003 game in Adelaide for example, I was gone after 20 minutes, away to hospital with a dislocated shoulder. It was only later I found out from the rest of the lads that there had been all sorts of shenanigans out on the pitch. They had gouged Keith Wood and Reggie Corrigan – their two props got suspensions after it – and there was plenty of stamping and off the ball stuff that didn’t come out at the time. They were dirty, no two ways about it.
At the heart of it, they were bad losers. Part of their game plan involved roughing up the Irish because they thought we couldn’t handle it. And then when the IRFU made complaints about their players afterwards and got them suspended, they thought we were whiners who couldn’t take it. But the truth was they couldn’t take their beating. We had lost to them once before and they maybe thought that’s how it was going to be from then on. So they kicked and stamped and gouged thinking they could dominate us.