Argentina’s back three has ability to shred Irish defence
John O'Sullivan: during the Rugby Championship Pumas averaged three tries a match
If the New Zealand rugby team eclipse all other considerations when it comes to Ireland’s four match November Test series given the heightened levels of excitement and anticipation at their impending arrival to these shores, it’s entirely understandable from the paying public’s perspective as they await a clash between the number one and two ranked sides in world rugby.
The Irish squad and management must shove any thoughts to the periphery as they prepare to host Argentina at the Aviva stadium on Saturday; it’s fundamentally about respect but also recognising they will face a visiting side that has the capacity to shred defences as they proved with some distinction in the 2018 Rugby Championship.
Argentina may have won just two from six matches in the tournament, including a first victory on Australian soil since 1983, but their attack was exceptional by any benchmark, an assertion borne out by the statistics across several categories. Mario Ledesma’s charges presented two extremes, wonderful in attack, wojus in defence.
The sharp end of that attacking brio is manifest in fullback Emiliano Boffelli and wings Bautista Delguy and Ramiro Moyano with an honourable mention to outhalf and facilitator Nicolas Sanchez. The Pumas averaged three tries a match (18 in total) with Sanchez chipping in with four and Delguy and Boffelli three each.
Boffelli (71) carried more ball than any other player in the tournament while in terms of clean breaks Delguy (12) was tied second and Moyano (10), sixth. But it is in the ‘Defenders Beaten’ category that perhaps offers the most graphic illustration of Argentina’s cutting edge in the tournament.
New Zealand wing Waisake Naholo led the way beating 24 defenders with Moyano and Boffelli on 23 alongside Australia’s Israel Folau; Delguy was one further behind on 22, the same mark as New Zealand’s Ben Smith. The Argentine back three beat 68 defenders between them in the Rugby Championship, an average of 10.8 per game.
The 6ft 3ins, 23-year-old Boffelli can also play wing and centre and has played at every age-grade level for Argentina including winning 19 caps at Under-20 level – he first played at 17 – across three World Cups.
He has scored 51 points in 20 appearances for the Pumas, touching down in three of his last four matches and kicking two penalties in the other game. He’s extremely quick, is a long range option from place-kicks, and his primary instinct is to run.
Delguy (21) scored eight tries for the Jaguares during the Super Rugby Championship last season, before making his Argentine debut against Wales during the summer. In eight caps he’s crossed for four tries, including a brace in the victory over South Africa in Mendoza. Boffelli and Delguy have just signed new contracts to remain with the Jaguares along with outstanding flanker Marcos Kremer.
Moyano (28), who shifts between wing and fullback, spent four years playing for the Argentine Sevens team – Delguy also came from that background – made his senior full debut in 2011 and has gone on to amass 27 caps and 14 tries.
The three Argentine players have been name-checked regularly in the Ireland camp this week and will have taken up a fair bit of time in terms of the analysis and detail offered by Irish defence coach Andy Farrell.
Ireland’s likely fullback on Saturday Andrew Conway noted: “They (Argentina) have seriously good attacking weapons out wide. They’ve got guys like (Emiliano) Boffelli and (Ramiro) Moyano who were beating defenders for fun in the Rugby Championship. They ripped New Zealand open many times and had a few great wins.”
Luke McGrath ventured: “From our point of view, we have to go through the attacking phases and make them tired. Defensively, Faz (Andy Farrell) has gone through it today, just talking about staying connected and everyone being on the same page to shut their threats down but it’s a massive challenge for us this week.”
The Pumas 45-34 defeat to Australia in Salta sums up where the team is at the moment in some respects. Argentina led 31-7 at half-time in that game, the Australian defence porous and brittle beyond belief as the home side scored as they pleased, only to then lose the second half 38-3. Defence had been an Achilles heel throughout the Rugby Championship for Mario Ledesma’s team.
However during the tournament Argentina have proved that they can score tries against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, home and away, and in Boffelli, Delguy and Moyano possess players who wreak havoc from broken play, set piece and as a result of injudicious kicking.
Ireland have been forewarned and one suspects with Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell’s attention to detail, forearmed. They’ll need to be.