The dust has settled on the pool stages. Ireland are counting the cost of a superb win over France with an injury list which would be more appropriate in a war zone. Argentina are quietly taking care of business with an emphatic victory over a Namibia outfit who were subjected to a horrid four day game turnaround. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at Ireland next opponents and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the Argentinian challenge.
Argentina – Form Guide
If the Ireland rugby fan is expecting the same old Argentina next Sunday, they will be sadly mistaken. Argentina have built on their traditional values with a dynamic passing game when provided with time and space. Their supporting lines from the pack and back line has being a joy to watch in this tournament and formed the basis of their away victory over the Springboks in the Rugby Championship. Argentina competed extremely well against New Zealand in the opening Pool C clash at Wembley. Yes, they may have lost 26-16 at the end of this contest but for a hour of this game, they went toe to toe with the reigning world champions with a performance full of adventure and purpose. Argentina’s adventurous style was ultimately their undoing in the second half, losing possession to New Zealand deep in their own territory. An Argentina team in the past would have kicked the leather off the ball into touch but gone are those days. Argentina since then have shown their dynamic game plan with emphatic victories over Tonga, Georgia and Namibia. Many will say that the last three opponents were not up to much but they dispatched those teams in efficient manner giving all their squad vital game minutes. They advanced to the last eight with minimal injuries but suspension woes has cost them the services of Galarza and potentially pivotal three quarters Marcelo Bosch for an incident against Namibia last weekend.
Argentina – Game Plan
Argentina have provided plenty of variation in their tactics so far in this tournament. The New Zealand game saw Argentina committed to a running game off the fringes which caused the Kiwis endless problems particularly in the opening half. Their two tries on the day showed everyone which is good in Puma rugby; the first try was classic Argentina with the pack taking the ball up with aggressive running lines off the fringes of the ruck, the second try was launched by a maul which appeared at first look to stall but Argentina’s pack ability to change direction was superb in putting New Zealand on the back foot. Argentina’s adventurous style of play was unveiled, they were not content in just kicking the ball into enemy territory, they decided to launch counter attacks deep in their own half. The plan worked for a time but when New Zealand made the required adjustments in the second half, more aggressive defensive line speed forced Argentina turnovers. It is a tactic that Argentina will perhaps curtail in favor of solidity next weekend but loose kicking from Ireland d will see Argentina attack from deep and spark their passionate fans into life who have being phenomal.
Argentina – Star Players
The Argentina squad have several world class players on show against Ireland. The front row is on a par with the best in the tournament, scrum set piece is their par excellence and will pose Ireland problems. Ayzera and Creevy are excellent in set piece situations. The line out has functioned but pressure will be applied by Ireland lock combination and is a potential area where Ireland can exploit with the suspension of Galarza. The scrum is the foundation, the platform where Argentina will look to gain a foothold in this contest. The penalty kicking of Sanchez has being on point from both close and long range and will start to keep the score board ticking over if allowed to progress.
The back row is led by the Toulon clubman maestro Juan Fernandez-Lobbe in their ranks. He is the general of the pack, the Argentinian equivalent to Sergio Parisse of Italy. Fernandez-Lobbe will control the lineout calls and strategize his pack in maul and breakdown scenarios. Ireland will have a strong examination from Argentina in the forward battle, even more so with the injuries to O’Connell / O’Mahoney and the probable suspension of Sean O’Brien. Argentina will try to expose the back row withdrawals. The pack battle looks incredibly intriguing. Both sides will target the other in different facets of play.
The Argentina half-backs and back line have exploded into life in the last three games of the tournament. Juan Imhoff leads Argentina try scoring stakes with three tries in the tournament. His explosive line running caught the eye particularly against New Zealand and his tries have rewarded the player for his supporting running lines. Bosch controls the three quarters and if suspended will be a massive blow for Argentina. Bosch is an excellent tackler and his appetite to do the hard yards for colleagues in defensive and breakdown situations is to be commended. Bosch’s suspension will leave a massive void in the Argentina back division and Henshaw / Earls and Fitzgerald will look to exploit any weakness. Argentina have scored tries at will in their last three games of the tournament but they have shown lapses in concentration leaking a number of soft tries. The lapses in concentration have being around the fringes as well as break down in their outside defense. Argentina will no doubt improve on this aspect of play. We have not mentioned Sanchez and Hernandez, two fantastic football players who can win games with the unerring boot. Ireland will have to produce another outstanding performance to beat this outfit. Argentina will come with different looks on Sunday but Joe Schmidt provided that the players on duty are sufficiently recharged from the bruising France encounter will look to counter the threat with pressure on the set piece and look to exploit Argentina in the three quarters particularly if Bosch is suspended. Roll on Cardiff already.