Craig Gilroy is rewarded for his three-try performance last weekend with a starting berth on the left wing in Saturday’s crucial GUINNESS series international against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Reasons to back Ireland
Ireland arrived back in the capital after victory over an admittedly weak Fiji in Limerick raised squad morale. Make no mistake securing a vital victory against rivals Argentina will require significant improvement in their performance. But with only one change to the starting XV, in the backline, Declan Kidney unsurprisingly sticks with the same pack which faced the Springboks two weeks ago. Second best on that occasion, an improved accuracy at the breakdown would go a long way to thwarting the Argentine threat. But they must be more efficient. If not, a typically disruptive South American unit will cause havoc and Ireland will be in for a very long afternoon.
Winning superiority at the breakdown is the challenge, but with quick clean ball Ireland have the flair players in the backline to hurt their opponents. There’s no shortage of pace out wide for Sexton to unleash with Keith Earls wearing 13, Simon Zebo continuing at full-back and the flying Gilroy making his debut on the wing. Zebo, in particular, showed glimpses against the Boks that he could be a dangerous point of attack if he’s given space. With Gilroy, his exceptionally quick feet make him a threat from almost anywhere on the field. Given half a chance, he’ll be through a gap.
These young players are the future of Irish rugby, but they are also capable in the present and supremely confident of their abilities to perform at the highest level. That can only be a good thing for Ireland.
Reasons to back Argentina
The Pumas renew their long standing rivalry with Ireland having lost their two previous encounters, most recently going down 29-9 at the Aviva in November 2010. The 2012 form book, however, points to an Argentina win which would send Ireland into the third tier of world rankings, and ensure a more difficult group in the forthcoming Rugby World Cup draw.
We have already established the breakdown as a key area for Ireland implementing their attacking game-plan. For Argentina it’s a matter of disrupting Ireland by any means, within the laws of course! It’s a tactic the Argentine back-row has mastered over the years, as Wales found out to their cost two weeks ago. Wily experienced captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe was a particular menace that afternoon, and will hope to have a similar impact on Saturday.
But it wouldn’t be fair to say the Pumas are restricted to that disruptive game-plan. They’re far better than one dimensional Argentina sides that have travelled to these shores in the past. In their first season playing in the Rugby Championship Argentina proved they belong in that company. A first victory eluded them this season, but they’ve developed a new more expansive style under the mentorship of former All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
They will look to their back three for creative inspiration. Where Juan Martin Hernandez is as gifted a footballer as you will find in any team playing this weekend, and wingers Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho are currently bang in form.
Prediction: Ireland by 5
Incredibly close to call, it could easily go either way. Jaco Peyper’s interpretation of the breakdown could determine proceedings but with home advantage, and a greater need for those precious ranking points on offer Ireland may just edge this one.