Thursday 26 April 2018

David Wallace: Dwindling Irish numbers will give Argentina hope but we have depth

BJ Botha will start for Munster
BJ Botha will start for Munster
Paul O'Connell's influence will still resonate in Munster
Ireland's Ian Madigan celebrates after the final whistle against France

David Walllace

Everyone saw last weekend's game against France as 50-50, but Ireland absolutely blew them out of the water. And it was all built around their attitude and will to win.

Ireland are in a great place right now - they lead the figures from the pool stages with 92 per cent of their tackles completed, 98 per cent of their lineouts won, and a ruck percentage of 97.

So the objectives have been achieved. Ireland are on the so-called easier route, but the World Cup only intensifies. The injuries have mounted, and Argentina will have enjoyed watching the Irish numbers dwindle. Those injuries to key players will give Argentina hope.

But as we saw the Irish have strength in depth. Last weekend in the face of adversity leaders stood up, all over the pitch. If Ireland were clinical they could have put 40 points on France - that shows how dominant they were, and Ireland still won by three scores.

From an injury perspective, it was a disaster but the guys who came in proved they deserved their place in the match-day 23.

Ian Madigan and Iain Henderson, were two players in particular that had to perform, and they didn't show any ill-effects of the pressure. Henderson had a point to prove - he knew he was in top form and that it was a marginal selection for Devin Toner over him.

But he just came in and took the game by the scruff of the neck. He was magnificent in the lineout, and his open-field play was fantastic.

That added physicality will be vital this weekend. From my experience, Argentina are the most physically imposing side out there.

So Ireland have overcome the first hurdle, in beating France, the game that everyone had focused on for so long, but they need to come back down quickly.

In 2011, they beat Australia and underestimated the Welsh. Ireland were off the boil in that one, and probably thought they were better than they were - they lost, but I don't see it happening again.

This is different, Ireland don't need to be reminded about some of the defeats to Argentina in recent World Cups - they always came in crucial matches.

Tactics

But Joe Schmidt's tactics were spot on last weekend, and he will have the lads in the right frame of mind.

Argentina have been one of the form teams of this World Cup, and they came so close to upsetting the All Blacks, at Wembley. They also beat South Africa, in their own backyard, during the Rugby Championship, so they are quality.

They have added a few strings to their bow in this World Cup, but once again their scrum and lineout are their fundamental strengths.

Ireland laboured in the scrum against Italy, but were much better against France, and towards the end of that game they were really dominant - replacements Nathan White and Jack McGrath were fantastic.

The battle up front will be intense, and if Ireland win that it could be key, because the Argentines won't be able to launch their backline.

They have a string of fantastic names back there - Juan Martin Hernandez is their fulcrum, but the likes of Juan Imhoff complements him up superbly.

Equally, if Argentina get on top, it will scupper Ireland's chances of getting quick, clean ball - so the scrum and lineout will be huge. With four mouthwatering quarter-finals to look forward to it promises to be a great weekend's rugby.

And Munster are back in Pro12 action this weekend, when they kick off their 16-week block of games against Cardiff. It's disappointing to see Peter O'Mahony go down against France, because with Tommy O'Donnell also set to miss an extended period - the Munster back-row need to step up.

The World Cup period has been beneficial to Munster, they didn't lose too many players, and they have chopped and changed in the first three games.

It produced three wins from three, and the way they have been winning games has been encouraging.

Another win is expected tomorrow, it would be the perfect start to this testing block of fixtures, and would give them huge momentum to build on.

Irish Independent

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