Fernandez Lobbe warns Irish of young Pumas' pride
Argentina legend Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has warned Joe Schmidt's Ireland that they face a tough test on Saturday week despite the lack of big names among the Pumas.
The Toulon flanker was an outstanding performer in the Heineken Cup final but will spend June in a high performance camp in Florida rather than taking on Ireland and Scotland.
Given that the South Americans will be playing in the Rugby Championship from July, those players involved in the latter stages of European competitions are not permitted to play in June, meaning head coach Daniel Hourcade will have a weakened side for the matches against Ireland in Resistencia and Tucuman over the coming weeks.
The Argentina squad have been together for some time, adding Montpellier's Lucas Amorosino, Bordeaux's Nicolas Sanchez and Leicester's Pablo Matera in recent weeks.
They are planning to adopt a policy of picking only from Argentina from 2015 and Hourcade has left out big names like Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza and Gonzalo Camacho due to them being under contract beyond that point.
Fernandez Lobbe appears to be exempt from that policy given his inclusion, but he will not face Ireland next month. But the opening up of places so close to a World Cup should inspire the new Pumas into performing well.
"It's a young team with a new coach and I don't think we could get a bigger challenge than playing the Six Nations champions," Fernandez Lobbe said.
"We've seen the squad, they're going with all guns blazing so it will be a huge test for all the guys, some of whom will maybe be winning their first caps for Argentina.
"What better way to begin your international career and to get the experience needed to have a bigger player base for the World Cup.
"It's a younger team than those that have faced Ireland before, but they are good players who are developing.
"You know the pride we have in our jersey, so it is going to be a nice game for us."
By playing the Tests in northern outposts, the Pumas are taking Ireland on an arduous journey around a huge country and while the two cities are not rugby strongholds, Fernandez Lobbe expects them to be intimidating arenas.
"They're trying to change the venues to make it more of a national game. There will be the same passion that you always get in Argentina, the same atmosphere."