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Heaslip braced for almighty scrap with 'big, tough bruisers'

THUNDERDOME – two men enter, one man leaves. As apocalyptic movies go there are few better than the 1985 Mad Max sequel. Tomorrow won't be quite as dramatic – and it certainly won't feature Tina Turner in black leather – but it won't be far off it.

Two teams will enter the arena at the Aviva, and one will leave walking taller than the other. This match, just in case anyone isn't certain, is going to be tough. Every yard gained will have a price, every ball won will come at a cost and nothing will be cheap.

The fact that Argentina are assured of their top-eight seeding doesn't matter a damn. They are seeking to win in Dublin for the first time. And it matters not a whit that the fiery characters of previous meetings have departed the scene. Argentina don't do friendlies, something Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip pointed out.

"They're big bruisers, big men, strong men, tough men. They're not afraid to mix it up and get down and dirty and just grind it out," he said.

So Argentina will be physical. No surprise there. But they have now added guile to their brawn.

"They have backs that can play. They impress me every time I play against them and every time I watch them. They're one of the few teams that I do like to watch," added Heaslip (right).

The No 8 now looks and acts the captain's part. After some initial blips, he has clearly grown into the position and is mindful of the weight he must shoulder, especially tomorrow when so much is at stake.

Ireland have to win the game, and while the players are aware of what is at stake, they will not be overawed by the occasion.

"When anyone mentions pressure this week, I keep hearing Cian Healy in the back of my head saying, 'pressure's for tyres'," said Heaslip.

"For us, all the outside pressure and chat, we're letting it wash off us as best we can and focusing on what we have to do because it's a tall challenge.

"Argentina are a good side, they've a lot of experience. They've had a lot of games this season and they're benefiting from it. So we've focused on their strengths and weaknesses, and we'll hopefully be able to exploit some space and make some gains."

Captain and coach were in unison when it came to 'controlling the controllables'.

"We're fully aware of what the consequences are in terms of rankings and going forward, but we can't do anything about that now," said Declan Kidney.

"The way we approach it is that every game is hugely important, and the minute you make one more important than the others, you're diminishing the time you have in the jersey.

"They're probably the best prepared November Argentinian side we'll ever have played against. They've been together for three and a half of the last five months, the experience they have right throughout the side is impressive and all that we can do is just try and focus on ourselves to overcome what's going to be a huge challenge."

One of the challenges, according to Kidney, is for Ireland to put up a performance for 80 minutes.

"Against South Africa we probably got a good first 40 but we didn't back it up then with a good second 40," he said.

"We probably got a good 60 against Fiji. Against Argentina we're probably going to need to play eight good 10-minute blocks because if you drop off in any of them, they'll pick off scores and they're very hard to claw back."

Experience is an issue for Ireland, who have a couple of novices in the back three, but Kidney isn't worried about how his charges will respond.

"We have to build up our experience levels very quickly and that's not an easy thing to do, but I can't fault these guys for the way they've gone about their work," he said.

"They've gone about it really well and that's all we can ask of a team."

Irish Independent