Argentina v Ireland first test preview: Head to head ratings


1.Lucas Noguera Paz – A 20 year old loose-head with a big future, Paz made a try scoring senior debut against Uruguay last month.6Jack McGrath – An able deputy for Cian Healy, McGrath has seen his reputation enhanced over the course of the year.8.5
2.Matias Cortese – One of the older members of the squad at 28, but Cortese only has five caps to his name despite making his debut against Samoa in 2005.6Rory Best – One of the best scrummaging hookers in the game. Having his experience in the front row is a huge advantage on tour in Argentina, renowned for the threat they pose in that area.8
3.Ramiro Herrera – The uncapped tight-head has been recalled from Castres, he played in the Top 14 final and has signed a two year contract extension having impressed on a short term deal.6.5Mike Ross – An ill-timed injury to Marty Moore means Ross is selected due to the lack of a viable alternative at tight-head. His form is good though.7.5
4.Manuel Carizza – A tough tackling second-row plying his trade with the Stormers in South Africa, Carizza played in five Rugby Championship games last in 2013. He’ll need to lead an inexperienced pack.7.5Iain Henderson – Finished the season strongly with Ulster, this tour is made for him to make an impact against a relatively inexperienced Argentine side.8
5.Tomas Lavanini – Another in the Top 14, Racing Metro’s Lavanini is just 21 years of age but already has 7 caps including one against South Africa in the Rugby Championship after he impressed in the Junior World Championship last summer.7Paul O’Connell – Even at 34 years of age the captain is relishing the prospect of a new experience in Argentina, don’t expect his commitment to wane as he celebrates his 100th test match.8
6.Rodrigo Baez – The 25 year old back-row from Liceo R.C has senior 8 caps as well as recent experience with Pampas XV against various ‘A’ representative sides including Tonga, Samoa and the Reds.6Robbie Diack – Mark Anscombe rates him highly at Ulster and while he lacks the x-factor of an O’Brien or O’Mahony his attention to detail and consistency could catch Schmidt’s eye.7
7.Tomas de la Vega – Another back-row playing with Pampas at the moment, de la Vega has 9 full international caps including one try against France in 2012.6Chris Henry – A relatively late bloomer on the international stage, but superb in Ireland’s back-row during the Six Nations plans and doesn’t intend on letting his grasp on the 7 jersey slip.8
8.Benjamin Macome – Currently without a club, the no.8 played in four Rugby Championship games in 2013 and has 17 caps in total.5.5Jordi Murphy – Has this opportunity to impress at no.8 which could be significant with world cup selections sure to be competitive in this area just over a year from now.7
9.Martin Landajo – Renewing a strong half-back partnership with playmaker Sanchez, Landajo’s experience can give Argentina a platform to compete with Ireland.7.5Conor Murray – Highly rated Kieran Marmion may get a chance to shine on this tour but Murray remains the incumbent scrum-half, his game management has significantly improved this season.8
10.Nicolas Sanchez – The Bordeaux fly-half’s availability is a considerable boost to Argentina, a clever footballer he has been established as 1st choice for the Pumas since 2012.8Johnny Sexton – Helped Racing Metro to semi-finals of Top 14 in first season at the club, and despite a long season was ‘mad keen’ to be involved in the tour.8.5
11.Manuel Montero – If try scoring is a habit then Ireland had best be wary of Montero who scored four in a recent rout of Uruguay, the 22 year old winger plays in Buenos Aires and has 10 caps.7Simon Zebo – Left out of Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations plans, more than anyone he has a point to prove, though he can be prolific on the international stage.7
12.Gabriel Ascarate – The 26 year old centre has 12 caps since his debut in 2007, he’s never been prolific but scored tries in recent wins against Uruguay and Chile in the SudAmericano.6Luke Marshall – Recalled to a new look Irish midfield, it’s been an up and down season which ended with him missing out on selection for Ulster’s Pro12 playoff defeat at the RDS.6.5
13.Jeronimo de la Fuente – 23 year old Rosario centre made his debut against Uruguay and followed that with a try against Chile, a good performance from him could heap the pressure on Darren Cave in Ireland’s 13 jersey.6Darren Cave – The self proclaimed ‘face that didn’t fit’ gets a first proper shot as the only bona fide thirteen in the squad. It’s a huge few weeks for Cave.7
14.Santiago Cordero – A star of the 2013 junior rugby world championships, Cordero made his senior debut against England last November and has been earmarked for big things in 2014.7.5Andrew Trimble – Fresh off the back of an award winning season Trimble has clearly been enjoying his rugby lately and is vastly more experienced than the Argentine back three.8.5
15.Joaquin Tuculet – Another without a club at present the former Sale and Grenoble utility back plays the majority of his rugby at fullback but is yet to cross the whitewash in 7 caps.5.5Felix Jones – Injuries stalled a promising start to his career but with regular fullback Rob Kearney missing for the first test, Jones can make an impact if he looks to link up with Munster colleague Zebo.7


In theory Ireland are comfortably stronger in every department, but they’ll be out of their comfort zone in Resistencia and there are more than a few potential stars in the Argentine XV. Joe Schmidt’s decision to bring experienced squad members like Best, O’Connell and Sexton, with Heaslip amongst the replacements, should mean they’re able to manage a potentially hostile reception.

Finally, as Six Nations Champions, Ireland are a sizeable scalp for the young Pumas, but that’s unlikely to distract a strong Ireland XV even without the majority of their Leinster contingent. Indeed, in their absence, that added competitiveness in the squad should be enough to keep players focused and I’d expect Ireland to win by 18.

By David Blair (@viscount_dave)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

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