Ireland v Argentina: Jordan Larmour keeps place at fullback
Seán O’Brien starts as Joe Schmidt names same pack that played Argentina last year
Guinness Series: Ireland v Argentina
Kick off: 6.30pm. Venue: Aviva Stadium. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog from 5.45pm. On TV: Live on RTÉ2 and Channel 4.
Jordan Larmour and Dan Leavy are the individual winners as Ireland welcome Argentina to the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
The inability of Garry Ringrose to train since victory over Italy last weekend in Chicago somewhat forced the hand of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the official November opener.
Injury to Rob Kearney (shoulder) had presented Schmidt with the opportunity to run Robbie Henshaw at fullback, with Bundee Aki and Ringrose in midfield, but that plan was scuppered this week. Henshaw switched into the back field for 34 minutes of last month’s victory in Treviso after Kearney was forced off with a shoulder problem.
However, the 32-year-old trained this morning with the squad and is expected to return for the New Zealand game on November 17th – unless Larmour continues his astonishing form. The 21-year-old’s hat-trick at Soldier Field is rewarded with another start at 15 as the former Connacht partnership of Henshaw and Aki is reunited outside Johnny Sexton while Kieran Marmion gets a rare opportunity at scrumhalf.
Talking at Carton House about the make-up of his backline, Schmidt said: “I wouldn’t have too much hesitation putting [Robbie Henshaw] back to 15, he’s got a lot of the attributes but it would be a very ad hoc preparation after that late change playing away to Treviso.
“You need time to recalibrate. Now, is there anybody better at readjusting than Robbie? Probably not. It’s in the back of our minds as an option if we need to go there.
“The one thing I would say is it is not our first option. It’s not something we are going to default to with Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney highly likely to be involved next week.
“We’ll slot Robbie in and what I love about Robbie is he’ll slot himself in wherever.”
This Saturday against Argentina Henshaw is the outside centre.
“Robbie is the sort of guy who we could pick at seven and he would do a very good job of it.”
Next week, when New Zealand arrive in Dublin, Schmidt will have to reveal his favourite midfield combination.
“When Aki, Henshaw, Ringrose are all fit, and Chris Farrell is fit, I’ll let you know because I’m not sure myself at this stage.”
Ireland’s backrow reunifies the holy trinity – Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien and CJ Stander – as the same pack that beat Argentina 28-9 in November 2017 returns en bloc.
Leavy – who established himself at openside en route to the Grand Slam – gets an olive branch from Schmidt despite being demoted to Pro14 action in South Africa last week. Leinster’s player of the year has clawed his way onto the bench.
Iain Henderson partners James Ryan in the secondrow but Devin Toner hangs on despite the brilliance of Tadhg Beirne in red and green this season.
“Tadhg Beirne,” said Schmidt, “We want to manage his time. He had his first start last week, did really well, and is certainly in the mix but we have two fresh secondrows that we want to be in the mix next week.”
“We have five secondrows that we want in the mix for three spots next week.”
That indicates Beirne is not being considered as backrow cover.
There is enough of them.
Schmidt also noted the world class talent of Tomás Lavanini and selection of Guido Petti – a lock by trade – on the Pumas flank.
Rory Best captains the side on what will be his 112th cap.
IRELAND: J Larmour; J Stockdale, R Henshaw, B Aki, K Earls; J Sexton, K Marmion; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; J Ryan, I Henderson; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, CJ Stander.
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, A Porter, D Toner, D Leavy, L McGrath, J Carbery, A Conway.
ARGENTINA: E Boffelli ; B Delguy, M Orlando, J De La Fuente, R Moyano; N Sanchez, T Cubelli; S Garcia Botta, A Creevy, S Medrano; M Alemanno, T Lavanini; P Matera (capt), G Petti, J Ortega Desio.
Replacements: J Montoya, JP Zeiss, L Sordoni, R Bruni, T Lezana, G Bertranou, J Diaz Bonilla, M Moroni.