'I'm scarred by them from 1999 and 2007. They're still a bogey team for us'

ARGENTINA HAVE FAILED to win on any of their previous eight visits to Dublin, but the Pumas have inflicted three painful defeats on Ireland on the biggest stage of all, most recently at the 2015 World Cup.

While those particular demons from that day in Cardiff were partially banished with a dominant victory 12 months ago, Joe Schmidt’s side go into Saturday’s Test at the Aviva Stadium all too aware of the damage Argentina can cause. 

Brian O'Driscoll on the attack
Brian O’Driscoll in action against Argentina at the 2007 World Cup.
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Under new coach Mario Ledesma, Argentina — ranked ninth in the world — have shown encouraging improvements, most notably developing a lethal attacking edge, as evidenced in recent Rugby Championship wins over South Africa and Australia.

They arrive in Dublin off the back of another long season but carry the quality and physicality to provide Ireland with a far stiffer challenge than Italy did in Chicago last week. 

Schmidt’s team selection gives an insight into his thinking for next weekend’s much-anticipated clash with the All Blacks, and Brian O’Driscoll — having suffered World Cup heartache at the hands of Argentina in 1999 and 2007 — believes tomorrow’s game is a perfect work-out for Ireland.

“I think Joe really feels as though Argentina are still a bogey team for us, he’s still scarred from that World Cup quarter-final,” the former Ireland captain said this afternoon.

“I’m scarred by them from 1999 and 2007, so they’ve been a team that have consistently upset us in big games.

“They’re a side to be reckoned with, they play some great rugby.

“They’ll a little bit porous in defence but you can fix that. What they can do in attack is very exciting and I think they will really test us.

“They’re the sort of side who need to test us. It’s great because our one Achilles heel is that we go narrow and they will exploit that if we go narrow.” 

O’Driscoll is certain no stone has been left unturned in preparation for the game, adding there is no way Schmidt allowed the squad to think ahead to next week’s game.

“Don’t get me wrong, they’ve talked about the All Blacks already in November camp,” he continued.

“Those players [who] stayed around [in Carton House last week] and that are going to be largely involved in that All Blacks game, they did analysis on the All Blacks, they talked about it prior to getting into camp.

“This team have the capability of doing that, of having a day [on] one side and then parking that. Ultimately for most of this week I’d imagine they’ve only been talking about Argentina, maybe they’ve given an hour to the All Blacks but I’d imagine [it’s] parked and they’ll pick that up again on Monday.” 

One of those players returning to Schmidt’s side is Sean O’Brien, who will win his 52nd cap against the Pumas, almost a year after his last against the same opposition.

Brian O'Driscoll
O’Driscoll was speaking at the launch of Guinness’ #AnswerIrelandsCall campaign.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It could be argued the flanker is not the in-form openside option available to Schmidt, with Josh van der Flier, Dan Leavy and Jordi Murphy unfortunate to miss out, but O’Brien retains that ferocious ability which is both feared and respected by opponents.  

O’Driscoll, speaking at a Guinness event ahead of tomorrow’s Test, agreed.

“There’s some intangibles with Seanie, I think the confidence he brings when you see his name on the team sheet,” he explained.

“His experience, having done it before and delivered, there’s not too many bad games that Sean’s ever had. He is so confrontational and so aggressive that there’s no backward step with him.

“It’s comforting seeing that with one of your leaders, one of your leading ball-carriers, a guy that’s destructive but also has really developed his skill-set. So there’s an aura to Seanie that’s hard to put into words.

“It’s the unknowns that players have that when they’ve played with someone they’ve an appreciation for them. I think you’d see that in a lot of the older players, they love having Sean in their team.

Dan Leavy’s been great last season, Josh has been excellent this year and Jordi Murphy’s done nothing wrong. But when everyone’s fit I still like Sean O’Brien as my openside starting for a World Cup quarter-final against whoever it might be.

“He’s rated, he’s got respect from those he’s played with and against. And he’s done it over a long period of time, so we’re in a fortunate position, we’ve got some great sevens, but everyone fit and playing at their best, Sean’s still number one.”

Is he feared?

“Yeah, yep. He’s the sort of player that if you rub up the wrong way he could do serious damage to you in training. And those sorts of players are always frightening to have in your environment, but you’re so thankful that they’re on your side.

“And I think that says it all. He’s a real leader, you can hear his voice on every ref cam, every scrum, every ruck, he is literally barking away.

“He’s a Duracell bunny, he just does not stop. That brings a confidence. When someone’s able to verbalise for 80 minutes, you know they’re fit.

“I think he’s a terrific player.” 

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