Monday 24 October 2016

The man who broke Irish hearts in Rugby World Cup is back for more

Joshua Richards

Published 04/08/2015 | 12:03

Diego Albanese, Argentina, in action against Malcolm O'Kelly and Shane Horgan
Diego Albanese, Argentina, in action against Malcolm O'Kelly and Shane Horgan

DIEGO Albanese might not be the most popular man in Limerick when his Buenos Aires team arrive for the Limerick World Sevens in association with the Irish Independent later this month, but the former Argentina wing says he cannot wait to visit the Emerald Isle.

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The 41-year-old scored the winning try as Los Pumas knocked Ireland out of the Rugby World Cup in 1999.

But, as he prepares to boss his team over two days of high octane action at Thomond Park on August 21 & 22, Albanese is relishing and not fearing his welcome.

“It’s been 16 years! My last game for the Pumas was in 2003 World Cup and we lost to Ireland, so I have been involved in some good matches against them over the years,” said the 41-year-old.

“A young Brian O’Driscoll played in that game, he was just coming through, so it was great to have been able to play against him.

“We get to Ireland on Tuesday 18th and leave on Sunday. So it is going to be an intense trip but everyone is very excited.

“We had a great experience last year at Twickenham.

“We have some young players who play for amateur clubs in Argentina and go to university, so for them to play in Ireland is once in a lifetime opportunity. To go to where a big team like Munster play, we always watch the Heineken Cup, we are looking forward to it.”

Buenos Aires have been drawn in Pool 3 alongside Ulster, Connacht and the Golden Lions from Johannesburg.

Albanese has a mixture of youth and experience in his squad, with three having played at last year’s tournament at Twickenham.

And the former Leeds and Gloucester star says there will not be too much scrutiny on results, but wants to see his players give it their all.

“For us it’s about going to Ireland to play in such a great stadium and have that experience,” he added.

“We have a talented pool. We don’t know all the players, but we are rugby fans and we certainly know about the clubs. It will be challenging for us, our boys are part-time.

“Our target is to play the best rugby we can, that is all we can control. We understand the commitment we have to the tournament and we will give 100 per cent.

“If that’s not good enough then we can’t control that, but my focus will be on how we play, not on results.”

Though Buenos Aires have less than a week in Ireland, Albanese does hope to have at least one night off to enjoy something almost as close to his heart  as rugby – U2!

“If I can find something about U2 I will be going,” said Albanese. “Maybe a pub there once played in, anything.

“I have been a fan since I was seven. The last time they came to Argentina they did three concerts and I went to all of them. I didn’t just pick one, I went to all three. They are special people."

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