There are better ways to spend a 27th birthday but unfortunately for Argentina secondrow cum flanker Guido Petti, media duties in Spanish and English were on the agenda before he got within hailing distance of a cake.
Petti picked up a knee injury in the defeat to France thereby missing the win over Italy in Treviso, a first in seven matches for a beleaguered Pumas side. He trained but confined his prognosis on whether he would be fit to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to, “I hope I will.”
Capped 65 times for his country, Petti has faced Ireland on three occasions, winning the one that mattered, the 2015 World Cup quarter-final clash, before losing on his last two visitors to Dublin (2017, 2018); his abiding memory of the last Dublin game was a passionate rendition of the anthem(s).
It’s almost a year to the day that the Pumas beat New Zealand for the first time in their history and then followed it up with a draw the following week against Australia, both in the Rugby Championship. So he appreciates the nature and context of Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks last weekend.
However he did argue that Argentina considers Ireland to be "a great team, with "great players" and that wouldn't have changed "even if they hadn't beaten the All Blacks." Petti admitted that he hadn't studied closely any change to the way Ireland play under Andy Farrell but was impressed by last weekend's performance.
“I think they are really consistent. I don’t know if they are doing a whole lot of things differently than they were doing before. They did almost a perfect match, with the lineouts, the scrums and the 70 per cent possession. We know that Ireland are always playing phases and phases and if they have to keep the ball for 20 minutes they will do it just to search for that indiscipline of the other team.”
Argentina scored five tries in their victory over Italy in Treviso, a welcome respite for head coach, Mario Ledesma and his players. Petti pointed to better fluidity in attack and that "with the lineouts, the mauls, the scrums we dominate there and that was very good for us as a team."
The Pumas had lost their previous six matches in the Rugby Championship. He explained: “Throughout the year we had good and bad things in our game, the problem was the consistency. Of course (in) playing against great teams like Ireland, South Africa, All Blacks or Australia you have to be almost perfect for the 80 minutes if you want to win.
“The indiscipline, mistakes that we made during the matches, that didn’t allow us to win some games. We did some good things in the lineout, scrums, defence and attack but we didn’t do it for 80 minutes and that’s why we didn’t make it (win). If we find consistency in the team we can do great things, like we already did.”
The Coronavirus pandemic and the knock-on effect of the Jaguares no longer taking part in Super Rugby meant a huge upheaval for the Argentina players, a mass migration all over the world to earn a living in the sport. Petti reckoned: “It was a huge change for us going abroad to live; almost 100 players are now playing in France, England and some in Super Rugby too in Australia. Every change has bad and good things.
“We used to be together in the year (when playing with the Jaguares) and now separated we are trying to get better when we come together and get prepared for a match on a Monday and not a Thursday.
“The main problem for me in the Championship was that we did not (play with enough cohesion) as a team in a lot of moments but now in November Tests we have become more of a unit and got that feeling of unity back which is nice.”
Petti rejected the notion that Ireland might be flat in performance terms on Sunday after last week’s victory over the All Blacks: “(As) I said before after victories like this I think you become stronger not weaker.
“I don’t think the win will make them stop (because) it is the last match before the Six Nations. They will want to end this test year in the best way. (It is) the last game (and) they are going to be very well prepared.”