Seán O’Brien back for Argentina clash, Liam Toland says Ireland need to visit a dark place

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Odsonne Edouard scores Celtic’s winner against RB Leipzig. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Odsonne Edouard scores Celtic’s winner against RB Leipzig. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Joe Schmidt has made 12 changes to his Ireland XV for Saturday’s Test against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium (6.30pm), following last weekend’s 54-7 win over Italy in Chicago. Jordan Larmour, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale are the three players to retain their places, with Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose and Conor Murray the only high-profile absentees. Among those returning to the fold are Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Cian Healy and - after a near 12-month absence - Seán O’Brien. O’Brien missed Ireland’s Grand Slam victory as well as the summer tour to Australia through injury, but Schmidt believes the backrow is returning to somewhere approaching his best: “In my experiences of coaching him for eight and a half years - or for intervals in that eight and a half years - it does take a couple of games for him to get up and running. But he is up and running. I’d be hopeful that he is going to take another step.”

Meanwhile in his column today Liam Toland has suggested Ireland need to be dragged into the trenches by Argentina and the All Blacks this November ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup. He writes: “Can we see Ireland getting into a tough place the next two Saturdays and negotiating their way out of same? If we see that, where for instance the All Blacks are ahead with 30 or 20 or 10 minutes to go and the Irish collective manage, in some way, to get their noses in front, then the autumn series is a marvellous success. In a way, we need Argentina and New Zealand to put us into that dark place to make this November.”

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