Joe Schmidt plays down notion of revenge against Argentina
Ireland coach says it is ‘literally another Test match’ and laments injury to Carbery
Joe Schmidt: “I think Argentina will come here fully loaded and I think it will be a really big Test for both sides.” Photograph: Inpho
If one match in his time as Ireland coach costs Joe Schmidt sleepless nights, it’s assuredly that World Cup quarter-final 43-20 defeat to Argentina in Cardiff two years and a month ago. The two sides meet again for the first time since next Saturday, but in the aftermath of Ireland’s 23-20 win over Fiji on Saturday, Schmidt himself played down any notions of this being a revenge mission of any kind.
“It is literally another Test match. I think they’re a team that feels a bit frustrated about their Rugby Championship performances. There were times where they actually looked quite dominant in those games but they never sustained it and therefore teams got away on them.
“So I think they will be looking at us and wanting to make a statement because we’ve managed to fashion a reasonably good record in recent times and they will have some confidence based on last time.
“They’ve got a lot of the same players, especially in the forward pack and in the backline as well, [Martin] Landajo and Nicolas Sanchez and Juan Martin Hernandez is there, and they’ve got some new guys there like [Emiliano] Boffelli. He looks like an incredibly good player. [Joaquín] Tuculet was world class against us in that quarter-final. So we’ve got huge respect for Argentina and the quality they’ll bring.”
Nor will there be much focus on that quarter-final, with Argentina’s loss in Twickenham last Saturday week and win over Italy on Saturday being more relevant as well as recent.
“Not in our motivation. We’ll have a look at a couple of things from that game because that’s the last time we played them and we’ll have a look at their last couple of games, Italy today and I watched the game against England last weekend.”
“I thought they were really competitive against England. They missed four shots at goal and if you add on those four shots at goal, the score suddenly condenses to a one-score game. They really put some good pressure on England and I’ve no doubt they’ll come here looking to do the same thing.”
There are statistics and damned lies, and then there are the World Rugby rankings. Not that they matter except when it comes around to the World Cup seedings, but while Fiji currently sit ninth in the world above Argentina, on the simple if crude yardstick of the last two weekends in Italy, los Pumas are 25 points the better team.
They also ended a seven-match losing sequence in Florence, and thus come to Dublin for the final week of a long arduous season of travelling and rugby matches with the Jaguares and Argentina, buoyed by that win on Saturday and knowing they can throw the kitchen sink of it.
“Yeah, and I think one of the massive advantages for Argentina, and it’s like in any sport, if you are constantly playing against the best, I think you get better, and I think you’re driven to get better, whereas I feel a bit for Fiji. They don’t have the same ability to have the same fixtures, and therefore they don’t get the same continuity of progression, and it’s been tough for Argentina, because they wouldn’t have the same depth as those other rugby playing nations that South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, for them, when they’re missing key players it is a big difference.
“They didn’t have Nicolás Sánchez last week and they didn’t kick those goals, and he’s a phenomenally good goal-kicker. So those guys make a real difference for them and I think they’ll come here fully loaded and I think it will be a really big Test for both sides, because we’re determined not to make it easy for them and certainly not to give them the head start we gave them the last time.”
Saturday’s win came at a cost, as it was always likely to do against the ultra-physical, enormous Fijians with Joey Carbery expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm.
This compounds Schmidt’s frustration, and that of the player himself, as until Saturday Carbery had only played five minutes at his favoured and best position of outhalf this season. Despite that, Carbery’s class shone through for the hour he’d been on the pitch.
Opportunities like last summer’s tour, when injury also limited Carbery to less than an hour, and this Guinness Series, are relatively skimpy between now and the World Cup.
“We have still got a fair bit of time before that happens and we will certainly keep working with him,” said Schmidt. “He’s been a bit unlucky for us as well to be honest. We felt that he would have got some great time in Japan, and he got that injury. He would have come off the bench again next week, but he’s got another injury.
“So it’s just proving elusive to us at the moment. It’s the same with Leinster. I think if Rob Kearney had been fit, he might have been able to get some more time at ‘10’, and I think the way his goal-kicking has come on, it’s improved out of sight.
“Now you don’t have to be playing all the time to improve your goal-kicking and that’s the best thing about Joey. What you don’t see is him working really hard on his game behind the scenes and that’s why we’ve kept a lot of confidence in his ability to contribute.
“It’s an imperfect world and it’s been made more frustrating by the injuries he’s picked up and it is really unfortunate for Joey. He’s really disappointed to have picked that injury up tonight.”